Image by Caroline Forbes

Poem introduction

Paul Klee's surname, translated, means "Clover".

Klee/Clover

Klee/Clover

Nightwatch after nightwatch
Paul Klee endured
'horribly boring guard duty'
at the gasoline cellar
and every morning
outside the Zeppelin hangar
there was drill then a speech
tacked with junk formulas
he varnished wings
and stencilled numbers
next to gothic insignia
a private first-class
with a lippy dislike
of their royal majesties
and Flying School 5 (Bavaria)

he wrote home to Lily
it's nice this spring weather
and now we've laid out a garden
between the second and third runways
the airfield's becoming
more and more beautiful

each time a plane crashed
- and that happened quite often
he cut squares of canvas
from the wings and fuselage
he never said why
but every smashed biplane
looked daft or ridiculous
halfjoky and untrue
- maybe the pilots annoyed him?
those unlovely aristos
who never knew they were flying
primed blank canvases
into his beautiful airfield


from Walking a Line (Faber, 1994), copyright © Tom Paulin 1994, used by permission of the author and the publisher