Wild Court

An international poetry journal based in the English Department of King’s College London

‘V.E. Day’: a poem by Sally Festing

V.E. Day in Selwyn Road, Cambridge. Author pictured in back row, third from the left.


V.E. Day


She holds a finger to her chin. Flowers bind her hair. White tablecloths stretch endless invitation. Flags fly. Plum trees pink the pavements and she’s stumbling into sun, brother a sweep, her sister a fairy. She’s tall for her age, too tall for a wand. A nurse perhaps? (there are several nurses) but ‘flower-girl’? She’d rather be a levitating angel, one finger on her chin. And why does everyone kill everyone? What about blackouts, sirens? Has she imagined riding the weir in her Micky Mouse gas mask, snorkelling with its rubber snout when warships plough the Cam – gunning down punts, tossing up courting couples as ducks skidaddle the puckered surface and Nurse guards sister in a tankish tasselled pram. Think how night times, blinds down, tomcats slink the garden, invade her dreams. How soldiers march past, rifles cocked, so she rocks until she screams. War-to-end-wars, what does this mean? She’s watching the photographer, it’s before she tangles in the nets and snares of time. Her mind’s still clean. Before and after follow each other like light slips away each day. There’s a tiny jester, a scowling girl in stars and stripes, a boy in fanciful headgear. Little red riding hood. A queen. None of them grins. What does she know about world domination? Hitler’s aim? Millions killed. Millions more like the mouth-organ man who doesn’t have legs and plays by the kiss-gate to the meadows. Like others with crutches she sees in trains. How many’s a million really?