Waiting for the Typhoon

A middle-class district. The hammers tapping
All day, and all the radios talking of so many
Metres per second, and all the aerials flapping.
Cans and candles have vanished from the shops.
The price of timber, for boarding the windows,
Has gone up and up. The tapping never stops.

The worst since—when was it? Oh damn it all,
It is always the worst something since sometime—
The worst rainy season, the worst A-bomb, the
Worst H-bomb, the worst political scandal, the
Worst harvest, or the worst outbreak of sex-crime.

Listening to the hammers and the chattered warning,
Watching the tethered trees and the urgent clouds—
       tonight or tomorrow morning?
One thinks of those who are truly embarrassed,
Whose houses would faint at the sight of a hammer,
Whose homes, tomorrow, will have fallen down
       in the worst way since last time.

Even the cicadas begin to sound a little harassed.
       Turning a desperate somersault,
A small green insect shelters in the bowels of my
       quivering typewriter—
Good reason for me to call a halt.

D. J. Enright, from Bread Rather Than Blossoms, 1956. Available in Collected Poems: 1948-1998.

(For Doug, on the way to Japan. Highly recommended. All of the Bread Rather Than Blossoms poems were written while Visiting Professor at Konan University in Kobe.)

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