The air-raid siren howls
Over the quiet, the un-rioting city.
It’s just a drill.
But the unearthly vowels
Ululate the air, a thrill
While for a moment everybody stops
What they were about to do
On the broken street, or in the slow shops,
Or looks up for an answer
Into the contrailled palimpsest of blue.
Always we forget. It’s once a year
Just as lush September’s getting sober
Ambushed by October.
It strikes the heart like fear, as the vibrations build
To an All Clear.
The test is dubbed ‘Parmenion’
After the general second in command
Implicated by his own son
In a confession to a plot of treason.
And Alexander had him killed,
Old family friend, right-hand man, comrade in arms,
Probably without reason.
Hence the groundless wails, the false alarms.
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A.E. Stallings is standing for election as Oxford Professor of Poetry.
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