Martin Robertson

Now and Then

Back Room, 1944

Riven temper runs along the table

like a ladder down a stocking, like flame

along dry wood.  But flame is beautiful

—more like the ladder in the stocking, wrecking

the firm silk.  He’s a fool

and she’s hysterical

and one no longer cares

to put a rough thought into kinder words

or keep it silent.  And at all our sides

sits the empty place of absent love.

And at all our backs

(our comfortable backs) thunders war

with all those deaths of others.

And that huge violence flickers in that void

with the little ugly flame of temper.