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George Szirtes- I

Central Europe



How admirable they are, these sober gentlemen

with their silver hair and patriotic moustaches,

their straight backs, their handsome, faintly malicious

smiles, their authority, their quiet gravamen.

They are assuredly the very soul of the nation,

who look to assure us and strive to look reassuring,

exemplars of uprightness, objects of admiration,

who have always been there and are the enduring

face of the people for which the nation has fought.

You couldn’t imagine them with a gun by a ditch

surveying a row of corpses, perish the thought!

They wouldn’t murder their despicable enemies,

they’d simply tidy them up like an unfortunate glitch

in the programme then straighten their sober grey ties.