Swallows and Swifts

by Charlotte King-Davies

We spent the hour before this, fishing the celestial sea
for swallows and swifts; deciphering their differences,
a mark, we found none made. But now,
rigor-mortised angels collect in our skies, piloted by lads
whose fear has been fermented to drink in their blood.
The war is over – and we are under
our friends, in the sky, and mad made meadow streets, and sea state dunes.

We’ll repeat the rifle’s rosary: lock, bolt, clip, sight –
some fumble like virgins, some are Casanovas in all arms –
there are paltry few relics here
of a peace practiced war. This is one that sticks.
The sweet-toothed and the sugarless, among cigarettes find time
to content themselves on black and white sweethearts.
And the seasoned, pleated by boredom, and barrage,
cure their ills on memories of home, and deserted lilies,
left to the shade, they once gave.

Oh god, the wait of wondering: which mother will win. This
pass the parcel of sons. Who will unwrap a living boy
from the coats, and caps, and girl-made guns. Or cry,
with a paper grave in their hands.

What makes us stay here, and water the flies with our sweat?
Under birds of standardised steel we watch, like rabid fans,
for the strip. As we did, trying to distinguish,
between swallows, and swifts. I wonder
how it would be if they sang,
if the engines’ voices were those of songbirds.
And how, then, the dawn chorusing over London
would be as rich as any Welsh copse.