Saturday 22 June 2013

"To Some Young Communists from an Older Socialist" (1933) by Naomi Mitchison

Under the cold eyes, the cat eyes of those young,
This car, cutting corners, into the ditch slithers;
And the middle-aged, mucky, stained and strained dither,
Feeling themselves fools, watched, their war-scarred withers wrung.

So we say, won't you help with the car, wise ones we want to trust,
But they won't - why should they? - they will walk fiercely, singing, with friends:
No drugs for the old duds, nor care for the dud cars not worth mending,
Leave it and walk, they say, that's good enough for us.

We try to, walk, warily re-adjusting wrenched sinews,
But oh it's too hard, comrades, we can't, you've killed us, we're dead and done,
Leave us by road-sides, sunk, head in hands, it may be sunny,
Dreaming no more of the dances that fairies in fields renew.

As for the car, we don't care much, it had jolly gadgets,
If someone finds and mends and drives it, we musn't mind,
Nor that, hoping to help, with you to give and take kindness,
We have been left to a fate worse than we once imagined.

Tolerance and irony were the things we once hated.
Now there is nothing but that - you've cornered, corralled the rest.
Look, our car's luggage of high violent hopes is only socks and vests:
Kick them away, careless, marching, you and your mates.

We who were young once in that war time, we are now not young but apart,
Living with photos of friends, dead at Ypres or Menin,
Remembering little of lies or truth perhaps defended;
We were hit then in the head, but now, hopeless, in the heart.

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