Poetry: Shaken from her Sleep | clivejames.com
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Shaken from her Sleep

A girl wakes in the night.  The room
is trembling and at first she thinks
it’s just her anxiousness, a dream,
the heat — her boyfriend’s t-shirt clinging
damply to her skin.  He’s gone,
left on the train, just yesterday,
called up for Basics. (Now, in camp,
he’s polishing his boots and trying
not to cry.) The cloth still smells of him.

She goes out on the balcony
to breathe, to stop the midnight quake,
but finds it waiting for her
in the humid dark.  A coming
storm, steel banks of clouds advancing,
thundering?  But no, the drought’s
not broken yet.  The streets are dry
and she can see Orion’s Belt,
the jewelled sword poised in the sky

above the town, the plain. Can he see
it too, where he is — hair shorn, close
to his skull, that handsome head,
caressed and loved, laid in her lap?
Leaning on the rail, she gulps
in air, to drown the ache, and feels
the metal shiver in her grip.
Through the trees, down at the crossing,
she now spies the cause: a convoy,

giant tortoises, lumbering, down
the main street, to the church.
Will the spire shake too as they pass,
head for the town hall and the park
where the angel stands, raising
her sword above the lost sons’ names?
Soft summer nights, he’d steal the roses
planted in their memory, for her,
without a thought.  But now the world

is real, though she can’t make sense
of those distant wars and this night’s
visitation, how they fit, or not.
In these small hours they loom immense,
slow, clumsy creatures hiding keen,
ferocious cleverness. But in
the sunshine of Commando Day
they’ll seem much tamer, as the children
clamber over the displays and fathers

marvel at design, ‘in spite
of sanctions’, talk of threat calmed
by this show of powerful
defence. But now she lies down, hopes
her heart’s mad drum will let her sleep
again. Disturbed, she’s not sure what
she fears the most: what’s outside
all she knows; or that their love,
her silence, and this little, peaceful
town, are neat, efficient levers
in some terrible machine.