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The Mitford Ode

Entrenched blue the luminosity
of that English summer
barely stirred, a glow still

apart from bare memory, a high-spirited
allegiance with valley & uplands, hoofbeats
on the paved road to Shipton-under-Wychwood

the unmistakable sky over the nursery
at Swinbrook House appointed for second sons of
Saxon Lords the backbench weekenders

in the great accomplished house
the baying of hounds & breezy
the chatty good-tempered leaves

turning their silver undersides
in vacillating patterns across
the ceiling over her death bed, Muv, who wore

white freshly ironed sailor suits
into her Victorian teens recalled
family's summers compressed

into one, & believed it sufficed for
the unBritish heaven awaiting her,
the understaffed cosmic household

Farve warned disallowed
clever women.  Their six daughters
betrayed from the start, bound for

hell with their white mice &
the menagerie, Farveís pony brought home
for his daughters in a hansom cab, &

Muvís goats, the bearded ruffians,
the girls harangued away from locals
& schooling, French lessons excepted

but the sisters learned early their positions
among their circle (the blooded
ice-skaters & ballroom dancers, debutantes

& prudent world travelers) depended
upon cultivating wit.  To give Muv her due
she managed to find amusement in anything

other then field sports &
the air of scrumptiousness
she encouraged in her girls,

their lives edging the British sea
& Land's End where their hearts
were lost bathing daily

in the icy channel waters,
the yokels, those missing links,
urging war about them

& when it happened
Farve called into question
the cost of feeding goats &

the upkeep of a house
with five staircases,
geography lessons in themselves.

Jessica thrilled to leaflets &
aligned herself with Stalin,
while Unity took tea

with dearest Mr Hitler his circle
our kind really, she even hinted
of a pet name for him, & Diana,

her lush beauty flourishing
beyond the natural bounds of
deportment, inspired Cecil Beaton

 who had a wig designed of silver foil
in which to photograph her, & she
in spite of Favre's bellowing,

married "that man" Mosley, the merriment
of the sisters, earnestness
in standing for their ideals,

Dianaís pale blue eyes, his dark
the enthused squelch of new boots
on wet London streets

the marches behind the handsome
pair in black shirts
styled on Mosley's fencing jacket

:Limp-wrist edicts be damned!
Jobs alone matter! The Italians
Germans have them, & this Leader will

pull you together, one British people,
the Great Unity of Blood-ties, or
welcome the Bolshies, the new wilderness!

& Farve back at the front,
his remaining lung bullied
by cold rain, colder than 1915

breathless under the bombardment
at Ypres, after his brother's death
posted to Oxford to convalesce

grasping the handlebars
of a motorcycle for home once a week
his purchase on the wind

& later he bought generously gabled
Asthall Manor, the new grass growing
of old seed.  For amusement

the family gathered to listen
for ghosts in the hallways,
their ability to laugh impaired

but still amicable,
& never bored.

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