Battle Lines - Poem by Iain McDowell
for Barney and Alice
Your end-of-terrace faces east,
Stone-windowed for the wind and rain.
You wake to sea-pictures, water-coloured
Washes: Lindisfarne and the Castle; God and war.
These two have come at ordinary times,
Flecking the horizon, when women,
Laughing at their washing, stopped to stare
And count the bulging, multiplying sails.
The sea still hisses with obscure announcements
Like a foreign station. Glowing in the night
Your house dials Oslo, straining out
For Oswald's battle-cry, or Aidan's
Jesus-shout, so loud it still surmounts
The crash of gulls and sand.
In bed, on land, I listen through the breathing sea,
And words arrive like helmets,
Bullet-smooth, shouldering to shore
They come, and fit themselves together
Into battle lines: advancing din,
A world remade, a dark surf striking in.
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