World War II comes to XXI Heol Eglwys by Robert Minhinnick

Even without a blackout
There was not much to show.
A street of cottages and whitewashed pub
Well used to the art of dousing
Every trace of light.

You knew the Heinkel’s unique drone –
Big, angry maybug trapped in a shade –
Yet here was one lower, and faltering.

The Swansea bombs were a murmur at dusk
But this was the first you ever heard fall:
Thin steam from a kettle;
The whine of sap in a sycamore;
Mosquito’s itchy piccolo.

Under the table you felt the house’s gentle shift,
Making itself more comfortable.
A joint shuddered, perhaps a slate
Escaped its nail.

And the next morning
Stood out in the field staring into the crater
That 500 pounds of German dynamite had dug.

At the rim you found a cow’s horn
Polished like the haft of a walking-stick,
And noted the mattresses of roots, silver now,
In the wall of the pit.

‘If the buggers could aim,’ your mother had said,
Shaking the plaster out of the tablecloth,
‘They’d be dangerous.’

by Robert Minhinnick

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Among Those Killed In The Dawn Raid Was A Man Aged A Hundred by Dylan Thomas

When the morning was waking over the war
He put on his clothes and stepped out and he died,
The locks yawned loose and a blast blew them wide,
He dropped where he loved on the burst pavement stone
And the funeral grains of the slaughtered floor.
Tell his street on its back he stopped a sun
And the craters of his eyes grew springshoots and fire
When all the keys shot from the locks, and rang.
Dig no more for the chains of his grey-haired heart.
The heavenly ambulance drawn by a wound
Assembling waits for the spade’s ring on the cage.
O keep his bones away from the common cart,
The morning is flying on the wings of his age
And a hundred storks perch on the sun’s right hand.

By Dylan Thomas
(July 1941)

A recording of Dylan Thomas reciting his poem.

Additional information: I have seen online a number of sources have ‘springshots’ instead of ‘springshoots’. The book I reference, and the above clip where you can hear the poet himself reciting the poem, confirms it is ‘springshoot’ . I can only imagine those sources copied each other or there is some alternate ‘American English’ version I am unfamiliar with.

Characteristically, the sonnet refuses to let the natural triumph of the centenarian’s death be obscured by piety, officialese or propaganda. Instead, it records the events with a quiet irony – that such an old man should need to be killed by a bomb. The flat title was an actual headline in a newspaper. With an even crueller irony. Thomas considered, as a title for the second part of ‘Ceremony After a Fire Raid’ known as ‘Among Those Burned to Death was a Child Aged a Few Hours’.