This side of madness, while the flames abate,
They have heaped their small belongings: tears,
(Harsh in paindry)’ eyes), hunger and hate,
And all their monstrous catalogue of fears.
Death is the least of these—a troubled sleep
Invaded by the memory of pain,
So much, that even those who die still weep,
And bones cry out and sinews are insane.
At night the children dream, clutching the air
With knotted hands … O sweet to dream of hell,
Where fallen angels burn! O sweet to stare,
Sleepbound, on demons! … No, their nightmares tell
The day’s tale over, and they run from men.
They run, they run, until they wake again.
Under the midnight’s iron rain, under
The ground, under the broken wall and arch,
And the fallen city, there’s no room for wonder.
Love is a moment stolen from the march—
The other side of killing, lust that cleaves,
A dry fulfilment of despair, the splinter
Piercing the heart. Its bitter warmth deceives
As cruelly as a lonely sun in winter.
He has no time to learn love’s alphabet,
No time to wipe the murder from his eyes.
It is enough that he and she are met,
Alive. No rapture here, no strange surprise
Only a fierce and brutal will to feel,
Kisses that bleed and lips as hard as steel.
Edgar Holt (1904 – 1988) was a poet, journalist and public relations officer.