October and the optical illuminations
make a rainbow rabble of
fantastic fiery night-lights in the sky.
Fifth of November, rain or dry,
we ignite his effigy –
a hemp sack stuffed with newspaper,
buttons for eyes, a slit for a mouth,
dressed up in dad’s old gardening trousers.
He rides broken chairs on a mountain of tyres
doused in paraffin. The pyre bursts
with brilliant red and orange flames.
Rowdy bangers, like imitation bombs,
make a nuisance in the damp air.
Frightened children rush indoors
to the comfort of ice cream or toffee apples,
pets cower fearfully behind sofas
and under beds, grown ups stomp their feet
warming hands on jackets baked in embers,
Some joker, next door’s Jimmy showing off,
sets the lawn on fire. A rush of buckets
bowls and vases filled with water
extinguish incendiary flames with a fizz.
Over cocoa all agree it was beautiful,
and nobody, except the grass,
got hurt. Last year Aunt Molly – now
safe in her room with the windows closed –
got carted off to hospital for oxygen.
Tomorrow there’s the carnage in the garden -
the charred remains of Catherine wheels
nailed to the washing line post,
dead rockets, damp squibs,
the ghost of this year’s Guy.
Outside the stars, like frozen sparklers,
have taken back the sky.