10

The Last Enemy

Could we locate the enemy of mankind
(I mean the GHQ, the Centre itself,
Not some mere outpost, or segment of the network)
Our Search and Destroy operation might succeed.

Sometimes we seemed to have it in our grasp
That final victory, the enemy mainforce beaten,
No more than mopping-up now left to do
Before the breakthrough to the land for heroes.

But then the erupting skin of our sick globe
Broke in a carbuncle with another core.
The infection was not finished, must lie deeper,
Go further than we guessed.

Though we were wiser
Than our young parents, in their delirious joy,
The war to end all wars. We saw it coming
Again, more schooled to meet demoniac forces,
Went tighter-lipped to a job that must be done
Yet hoped to win more time, hardly believed
How swiftly above a charred bunker could form
A cloud of another colour, vast, pervasive,
Ringing the world, passing through walls and doorways,
Noiseless, odourless, sapping the soul. Was this
The ultimate foe, the apotheosis of evil,
The field of Armageddon?

It would not do.
For one thing, there were too many border-crossers.
Love and hate breached the frontier. The questioned prisoners
All breathed and spoke. If you pricked them they would bleed.
The line blurred. We could not use our weapons,
While the mushroom shape went climbing, climbing, climbing
As non-aligned as the sun and rain of God.

In such confusion who can see to fight?
Is there no enemy? Was it all illusion?
The stench of death, the valleys of dry bones
Merely the moon-scenes of a mindless planet?
Or is the Prince of Darkness passing by?

It was in the morning I met him face to face
In a fraction of time brighter than a thousand suns,
The enemy of the world. We knew each other,
As he looked from my shaving mirror with level eye
Returning my gaze, telling me a bare-faced lie.