In the Netherlands, on the evening of 4 May, the war dead will be remembered. Here is my friend Kathleen Kummer’s poem about an event that happened in Holland during the Second World War. Kathleen’s mother-in-law was a published poet.
They came at night
Then there was the night they came for the horses.
There would have been no warning before
the clang of jackboots on the cobbles in the yard
of the outlying farm and the hammering on the door.
By the time they reached the edge of the village,
the farmers were up and had slipped their bare feet
into clogs. Behind the door, they were waiting
for the clattering of the hooves on the road to cease.
Not that there would have been silence as this farmer
moved, if need be at gunpoint, to the stable:
the shifting of hooves, the neighing, the whinnying,
he would know, without finding the words, meant betrayal,
his, as far as the horses knew,
which may be why he came to my mother-in-law’s.
I want that poem you wrote, he said,
that’s being passed round, about the horses.
And now I write mine, seventy years since then,
for when I can’t sleep, I often listen
as the clatter of hooves on those roads in Holland
swells in the peace of a night in Devon.