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Simon Rae




There's a missing person in everyone,
a draft dodger, truant, man on the run,

deserter, defaulter, garden fence vaulter,
an into the wide blue yonder absconder,

and I found mine, or he found me,
and together we sauntered out for a paper

or a carton of milk that wasn't needed
to match the one that would turn to cheese

while the cheese beside it turned slowly green,
leaving the bed unmade and the garden unseeded

and a bit of a mystery to explain.
The wagging tongues went worrying back

to the gap in the hedge and the hole in the fence
and to how they'd somehow always suspected

there was more to the case than met the eye
and if only they'd known as they walked the dog

or pushed the buggy round the block
that that was the definitive last Good Evening

it would have been easier making sense
of what they now saw was a chain of events...

Meanwhile smoke rings float to the ceiling
prompting this out of body sensation

that I'm looking down on a pile of clothing
artistically folded there on the shingle

and thinking how I'd left my life
like a field of snow which a confident witness

would swear blind he'd seen me cross
yet find, when he came to prove his point,

no tracks to show in the unblemished whiteness...

(Winner, National Poetry Competition, 1999)

Excerpts from The Face of War, illustrated Ronald Searle
 (Previous Parrot Press, 1999) 

illustration by Ronald Searle


The starting-pistol drips with testosterone's
Stringy grapeshot, releasing the Gadarene
Stampede to the heart of ground zero.
Round and round we go
Playing out the scarlet thread
From the hole Cain hacked in Abel's head,
Urging on the Malthus Morris at the rim
Of the grave; marking time till the day of doom
When the sky is scrolled and the mountains lapped
In a tide of blood and the great blade, stropped
On millennia of prophecy, splashes the sun
And dims the moon
As it mows its swathes through the wailing grass
And everything written comes to pass.


illustration by Ronald Searle


The Dove of Peace got jumped by the God of War.
He tore into her like a pitchfork ripping into a pillow
To the roof-stripping bellow of a sonic boom
That upset the chariot of the sun,
Startled the stars and kick-started the stone
On its pinball retreat from the mouth of the tomb.
A poulterer's fall-out and an appalled silence followed.
The Dove hedge-hopped off to await events.
The eggs she laid were dragon's teeth.
They rolled off the conveyor belt like the Greeks into Troy
Each programmed to search and destroy;
So she called it a day and plaited her olive branch into a wreath.


illustration by Ronald Searle


On the comfortably swelling knoll of khaki
Rest the originals of the executioner's hands
That hold, above the bowed head of the city,
The giant crossed scimitars.
The surprise
Of a face suddenly not two storeys tall
Bristling with eerie affability; Behind the eyes,
A depopulated landscape scavenged by winds;
A deserted platform piled high with unspeakable
Luggage: crudely roped trunks, seeping suitcases.
His laugh is the clang of a tailgate
Releasing an apple-avalanche of boots; his handshake
Intimate, crushing, like a bear's rotten-breath'd embrace.


illustration by Ronald Searle


Give us our daily
Refuge from the eyes
At the breakfast table,
On the tube, on the train, on the bus.
Sandwiched between the anorexic catwalk
And ads for a proven hair restorer,
The corpse hailing a taxi on his side,
The women wailing in their regulation black
The lovers from across the ethnic/religious divide
Caught in the cross-fire crossing the bridge,
Can be kept safely at arm's length
Until the appointed stop
And then abandoned to the wind's blind browsing,
The rain's indiscriminate sympathy.


(poems © Simon Rae, illustrations © Ronald Searle)

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