From Scapa Flow to Archangel

ice floes, towering seas, the close-knit crew
keyed up, the deck alive — staccato pulse
beating through boots, juddering bones; night watch —
gaunt faces, horizon eyes; Kit's father
can almost hear the Air Raid siren, see
the hurried struggle, the baby scooped from cot
into his mother's arms, the stout-hearted
little girl managing the stairs one step
at a time, the stubborn snick of the latch,
the child going on ahead, the frost spikes
on the tall-stemmed Brussels sprouts dazzle bright,
her shadow blackened by the bomber's moon,
Run, Kit, run, he wills them to the dug-out —
turfed roof, packed-earth bed, scrape-close door;

next shore leave, the night sky — mauled by toothed
flame — spitting cinders over Plymouth, he gathers
everyone, makes way on foot right up onto the moor —
Kit huddles under the gaze of a hawthorn — her father
keeps watch till clinkered light.



Helen Overell