A. E. Stallings


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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

To Alexander,

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.

A pity.

Hence the groundless wails, the false alarms.

A.E. Stallings is standing for election as Oxford Professor of Poetry.