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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 10, Number 2, June 2016

Tim Gardiner
Manningtree, Essex, England

The Townhall Clock

Villagers gather to watch the dogfight unfold. Vapour trails streak across the sky, Spitfire and Messerschmitt curving through the clouds. Despite a valiant rearguard, the Spitfire is hit, plunging in an erratic arc, spewing smoke in its wake. The plane crashes through a canopy of ash and hornbeam, exploding as it hits the ground. The fire burns all day and night, before dawn rain dampens the wreckage. Twisted metal is strewn across the wood, wildflowers excoriated from scorched earth.

heavy rain
fills the crater . . .
beneath fireweed
a charred boot
rests on its side

Orange-tip butterflies spiral higher in the open glade; the courting couple oblivious to the pilot’s stone memorial. Spring has arrived; yellow archangel and the first bluebells furnish a lush understorey. The buzz of a distant chainsaw ruptures the silence, a woodman finishing off a winter’s work.

in a damp spot
by the memorial
a townhall clock flower
facing skyward . . .
the Spitfire's guide

Author's Note: Townhall clock is an old English name for the wildflower Moschatel Adoxa moschatellina, a tiny woodland plant which has five flowers; four at right angles like a town clock, the fifth facing towards the sky. As a child at the end of the war, nature writer Richard Mabey was told that the skyward-facing flower was for 'the Spitfire pilots to read.' (Flora Britannica 1998).



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