Cold War

By Philippa Holloway


Come armed.

Vest, long johns, woollens.

Boots to your knees.

A hat.

Prepare to feel it anyway,

Seeping through

Invisible as gamma rays

But with immediate effect,

as your skin puckers with gooseflesh.


Stairwells deep as breath,

echoing your steps.

You tighten the belt of your


Down here the air is

moist, tinged with time

and something else – a creeping sense

of confinement

and security at once.

Stand to attention

in front of glass walls.

See the uniforms – vests, woollens,

boots to the knee.


Shiver and wonder whether

It’s the chill of being


Or the thought of being here

for real triggering your ague.

March through corridors.

Blow on your fingers, strategically.

If you keep moving you can remember

there is sunshine outside, no need for


Read posters where windows should be,

and calculate the blast zone,

its proximity to home.

Then march on to get

The blood flowing before your feet freeze.

Rise up.

Buy tea and sit cupping the warmth and

Joking in hushed tones

About how long you’d last

Before you drove each other


Buy trinkets, a protect and survive

leaflet to keep you busy

While all around heats up.

Take one last photo in the carpark and pretend

It’s history.

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