Indulging my morbid streak...
(Poem #222) Your Attention Please
The Polar DEW has just warned that A nuclear rocket strike of At least one thousand megatons Has been launched by the enemy Directly at our major cities. This announcement will take Two and a quarter minutes to make, You therefore have a further Eight and a quarter minutes To comply with the shelter Requirements published in the Civil Defence Code - section Atomic Attack. A specially shortened Mass Will be broadcast at the end Of this announcement - Protestant and Jewish services Will begin simultaneously - Select your wavelength immediately According to instructions In the Defence Code. Do not Take well-loved pets (including birds) Into your shelter - they will consume Fresh air. Leave the old and bed- ridden, you can do nothing for them. Remember to press the sealing Switch when everyone is in The shelter. Set the radiation Aerial, turn on the geiger barometer. Turn off your Television now. Turn off your radio immediately The Services end. At the same time Secure explosion plugs in the ears Of each member of your family. Take Down your plasma flasks. Give your children The pills marked one and two In the C.D green container, then put Them to bed. Do not break The inside airlock seals until The radiation All Clear shows (Watch for the cuckoo in your perspex panel), or your District Touring Doctor rings your bell. If before this, your air becomes Exhousted or if any of your family In critically injured, administer The capsules marked 'Valley Forge' (Red Pocket in No. 1 Survival Kit) For painless death. (Catholics Will have been instructed by their priests What to do in this eventuality). This announcement is ending. Our President Has already given orders for Massive retaliation - it will be Decisive. Some of us may die. Remember, statistically It is not likely to be you. All flags are flying fully dressed On Government buildings - the sun is shining. Death is the least we have to fear. We are all in the hands of God, Whatever happens happens by His Will. Now go quickly to your shelters.
Yes, it's nuclear meltdown time here in Japan, and your favourite Japanese poetry reviewer is glowing gently in the dark (in a most evocative shade of green, let it be said) while he composes these lines. Seriously, though, sometimes it seems that the only way to handle lunacy like nuclear weaponry is to laugh at it. "Ours is a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically" . Stanley Kubrick had the right idea in Dr. Strangelove, and indeed, today's poem shares much with that classic of black comedy - there's the same curious mix of utter seriousness ('you can do nothing for them') and pure farce ('Watch for the cuckoo in your perspex panel'). The announcer's calm, flat tenor is perfectly captured in the precise (well, not that precise, to be honest, but never mind) syllabics; at the same time there is heavy irony in phrases like 'the sun is shining' and 'Massive retaliation - it will be / Decisive' - an irony so strong that it makes you wonder if the speaker grasps the real truth of what he's saying. For make no mistake - in its own way, 'Your Attention Please' is as savage an indictment of the arms race as any hippie slogan or Green manifesto. It's closer in spirit to Adrian Mitchell than Wilfred Owen, but the criticism is just as harsh. thomas.  from Lady Chatterley's Lover. PS. I forgot to mention: Quite apart from contextual irony, Porter makes the telling point that modern-day warfare is a dehumanized, dehumanizing undertaking - the mechanical tones reflect the impersonal nature of a conflict where millions of lives can be sacrificed at the push of a button. [Links] For more on Peter Porter, read the commentary at poem #198 My favourite Porter poem is 'Instant Fish', which can be found at poem #64 My favourite protest poem is Adrian Mitchell's 'Nostalgia - Now Threepence Off', which you can read at poem #95 One of the greatest anti-war poems of all time is Wilfred Owen's 'Dulce Et Decorum Est', poem #132