via Garibaldi/Rina’s War – Julian Stannard

The George Crabbe Memorial Poetry Competition
1997 Crabbe Memorial Competition – First Prize
Adjudicator: Jo Shapcott

via Garibaldi

Last night I dreamed
I walked down via Garibaldi.
The palaces sighed, edging a little closer
and he street was full of turning faces:
of friends now dead, of creditors,
of bloated landlords, of lovers too.
It was difficult to walk through
so many people, difficult to know how best
to face the past. I smiled, I wept,
I bled in several places.

The eyes of some were terrible,
whilst others had hardly changed at all,
my hands were shaken and shaking.
But I suppose I was searching for something
at the end of via Garibaldi,
I guess I wanted something as it once was.
But if dreams were made for anything
they were made to confuse and deceive
and I woke, a thousand miles away.

Copyright © Julian Stannard 1997

Rina’s War

Lombardy ’43. Fog lingers with fog
and the silent progress of bicycles
has swallowed the wail of sirens.

Rina cannot see the Germans
and the Germans cannot see Rina.
All is lost in teh perfection of fog.

Just so the blind can hear the light
Rina cycles off through the rice fields
aware of the butcher, the baker,

the priest, the collaborator, their
silent vehicles swishing past
under the shadow of their breath.

At the end of the fog was fog
and a landscape of ghostly bicycles
all ducking and weaving, all hoping.

For nearly two years Rina sliced
through Lombardy with never a collision.
Then suddenly the fog lifted.

Copyright © Julian Stannard 1997

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