Quick March

Geraniums stood in ranked red rows
inside Victoria’s railed parks
where servants took their Sunday walks
without an aphid on the rose.

My grandfather in brisk young life,
hunched in dugouts, ironed Majors’ clothes,
spotted ‘dead Jerries’, when dawn froze,
then edged his lawns sharp as a knife.

My father kicked down Hamburg’s doors
when they pursued the last SS.
He grew, in ground raked fine as dust,
long beans, parsnips, small potatoes.

The white musk roses bend your border,
bees bumble, where dusk’s crickets trilled.
They marched; from rigid files, fell killed,
so you may garden, in disorder.

by Alison Brackenbury

This Thursday 2 October is National Poetry Day (the theme of which is ‘Remember’), and the Poetry Centre will be marking the occasion with the launch of three projects: a wellbeing poetry competition open to all at Brookes, a Memorable Poem video project in which members of the Brookes community talk and write about the poems which mean the most to them, and a series of pop-up poetry events around the Brookes campuses and across Oxford. You can find out more about all of these on the Poetry Centre website, and will be able to follow our activities on the day via Twitter and Facebook.

‘Quick March’ is copyright © Alison Brackenbury, 2014. It was published by Two Rivers Press in the anthology The Arts of Peace in 2014, and is reprinted here by permission.

Alison Brackenbury’s eighth collection is Then (Carcanet, 2013). New poems can be read at her website, and a new collection will appear in early 2016. You can hear Alison read from her work at the Poetry Archive, and read her reflections on The Great War on her blog entry for April 9 2014. You can also find Alison on Facebook and Twitter.

This poem is taken from The Arts of Peace: An Anthology of Poems, edited by Adrian Blamires and Peter Robinson, and published by Two Rivers Press. The first of August 1914 saw the beginning of the war that was to end all wars and which, instead, ushered in a century of armed conflicts, two of them described as global. This anthology’s title is borrowed from Andrew Marvell’s ‘Horatian Ode upon Cromwell’s Return from Ireland’, in which he deprecates ‘the inglorious arts of peace’. With this gathering of newly composed poems, and against that grain, this anthology looks to celebrate all that is left behind in times of conflict and which conflict is so often evoked to defend. The more than fifty contributors include Fleur Adcock, Fred D’Aguiar, Gerald Dawe, Jane Draycott, Elaine Feinstein, Roy Fisher, Philip Gross, Allison McVety, Bill Manhire, John Matthias, and Carol Rumens.

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.