One night from the bureau you took
a small metallic object, placed it, green
in the light of the standard lamp.
Strangely it sat on the dining-table
like an oversize matchbox made of steel.
Slowly you hinged back the armoured lid.
As if you opened a casket of sealed time
into the dark room came the Western Front
all that nightmare of what men did
When old Germany, the most civilized, died
when fairs on English Downs were pulled up
and trenches filled the French countryside
When Sacre prophesied the Great War
its dissonance the anger of the guns
its Chosen One a generation damned.
Out of that bombproof inkwell came poems
against the heroic values: Nie Weider Krieg.
And for a faraway young bride
From black depths came love-letters penned
as dolphins turned, phosphorescent
in Flanders, at the mouth of the Yser.
‘My most precious possession’ you said
’yours now, since you’re a poet too.’
So came to me an armoured inkwell.
‘I shall not cease from mental fight.’
Often we chanted Blake’s mighty hymn
and I repeat it still by candlelight.