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by Mike Finley


The city of London hid in its own darkness

knowing night was when the planes came,

and a single pinprick of light would give them away.

Fires were doused so no sparks flew out of chimneys.

Windows were painted or covered over with black cloth.

Shops installed airlock entries so no light escaped

when customers entered or left. Traffic lights were blinkered

so light only deflected down. Policeman patrolled the streets,

saying "Put out that light!" The lamps were dimmed,

the fuseboxes shut off, people anxious for a cigarette put off the urge.

Coastal cities turned out their lights, so towns

would not give away ships in their harbors.

In Ipswitch there was a panic because no one could figure out

how to switch off the huge illuminated clock.

The main problem was cars, which mowed down pedestrians at crosswalks,

or left their lights on and gave away everything.

It was not that the city was invisible to the squadrons humming overhead,

or that radar or maps did not exist. It was that,

without identifying lights, bombardiers did not know

what was where, they had no point of reference.

The first few moments outside were completely bewildering.

After a time you learned to grope forward in the dark,

hands outstretched, for early warning that something was there.