Tomorrow is the first Monday of the month when the 4,000+ alarms through the Netherlands are tested. This alarm-and-warning system was set up after the Second World War. The monthly test stopped after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and for a period the sirens were only tested once a year. The government wanted to introduce a warning system by mobile telephone, but this did not prove effective. So, from September 2003 the monthly sounds can be heard for exactly 1 minute and 26 seconds.
The alarms aren’t rung if the first Monday falls on a religious or national public holiday, or on the national Remembrance Day of 4 May. This month, the Dutch people will be reminded beforehand that the sound is just a test.
On Monday I am sending the final manuscript of my collection Remembering / Disease to Aaron Kent at Broken Sleep Books. I have chosen a poem from the new book that includes a siren and want to thank Isabelle Kenyon of Fly on the Wall Press for first selecting it.
I’m scared of the voice that tells me to let go of the wheel
it’s an old man’s harsh gritty cold pushing me
that time Monday sunny A487 heading for Porthmadog
black figures carry bags home whatever home might mean
silence only sirens calling the dog-end of the year
falling is kind of doing something
you can fall sideways head-first backwards
I have worked all these years to stay upright
running like a rabbit on a metal track