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Under the lamp-strung chestnut trees, the sweet budding limes,
Among the yelling switchbacks and the Kinos,
The cool, crowded beer gardens, where music pours,
Stifled news and rumours, like shadows, flitter.
‘Last night the Reds in our district….’
‘Did you hear the bombs explode by the gasworks? …’
‘They say the Browns have all escaped….’
Three sailors, arm in arm, lurch down the alley,
Their words fall darkly among the jokes of love -
‘Both railway lines were blown to pieces,
‘Yet the trains were warned….’ And here, pack-saddled,
A party of trippers returning from the river
Mix with their friends beside the shooting booths -
‘He told me’ - the shadows fly - ‘Only last week
‘One struck the other at a Cabinet meeting….’
‘Were those our own troops in the lorries, or …’
‘I’ve certain news they’ve settled that swine’s hash,
‘They found him stabbed in the woods.’
A group of boys by a restaurant trellis
Mutter together between cigarettes.
And from the papers sold before the tram
And over the radio from hour to hour,
Monotonous, important, insecure,
The voices of the rulers come -
‘All’s well, all’s orderly, on with the dance!’

John Lehmann

Dance Poetry
A comprehensive anthology
Edited by Alkis Raftis
Copyright 2012