First World War Poetry Digital Archive

The Calls


A dismal fog-hoarse siren howls at dawn. I watch the man it calls for, pushed and drawn Backwards and forwards, helpless as a pawn. But I'm lazy, and his work's crazy.

Quick treble bells begin at nine o'clock, Scuttling the schoolboy pulling up his sock, Scaring the late girl in the inky frock. I must be crazy; I learn from the daisy.

Stern bells annoy the rooks and doves at ten. I watch the verger close the doors, and when I hear the organ moan the first amen, Sing my religion's---same as pigeons'.

A blatant bugle tears my afternoons. Out clump the clumsy Tommies by platoons, Trying to keep in step with rag-time tunes, But I sit still; I've done my drill.

Gongs hum and buzz like saucepan-lids at dusk. I see a food-hog whet his gold-filled tusk To eat less bread, and more luxurious rusk.

Then sometimes late at night my window bumps From gunnery-practice, till my small heart thumps And listens for the shell-shrieks and the crumps, But that's not all.

For leaning out last midnight on my sill, I heard the sighs of men, that have no skill To speak of their distress, no, nor the will! A voice I know. And this time I must go.

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