First published in December 2011

my ears are super-sensitive -
I always wake first,
that far-off
banshee wail
its threads of dread
round my stomach.

Girls! Clothes on, quickly
now! Mum, attempting
calm, bundles my sister
into a dressing gown.
I insist on full uniform,
navy knickers, gym tunic, tie,
over-the-shoulder purse
with a badge on.

To the thrum of bombers
overhead - we tumble
down three flights,
throw ourselves
into our under-stairs shelter.
Bombs or no bombs,
my mother scowls at me, That tie,
she says, is the last straw!

An explosion, school?
station? bowling green?
Searchlights pencil
the edges
of blacked-out windows,
a burst of gunfire - fear
knots our throats. My sister
burrows into Mum's chest.

At last the all-clear's
single note - Mum relaxes,
frowns, I can't be doing
with all this carry-on - from
tomorrow it's siren suits
for you two. She urges us
back upstairs to bed. Siren suits?
I say, Like Mr Churchill?

(Siren suits were one-piece zipped-up outfits favoured by Winston Churchill.)