All week, since ‘Skipper’ crossed the Bar,
We’ve had silence coming out of our ears:
Silence for Strings by Samuel Barber,
Edwardian silence by Edward Elgar;
Big Ben has held her silver tongue
Till the whole State seems dumb with it.
Even today, the play’s postponed
While two fifteens of blue and red,
With armbands, muster on half-way,
Each bowed head wantonly intent
On its secret stuff, the own trash
(Forty-six) that fills the void
When nothing’s happening. (Helen’s waist.
Fifty-four. The piece of white
Chalk on which their toes are set.)
Acts of remembrance (Now up the six
Broad steps of the Cenotaph.)
Render the dead their quiet due;
But must the Empire hold her breath
For Skipper, slain by his appetites?
And dragging through this second minute,
Too—until you fear the ref
Has in his turn suffered a stroke,
And failed to tell; or when his whistle
Blew to inflict his interdict
The pea had flown from the whistletop—…
Imagine fifty thousand boredoms,
Ours, seats in the back of our knees
Till kingdom or the cold night come;
And then—O Jesus, make it stop!
From Oxford Poetry Vol 13 No 2 (Winter 2009)