The Manhattan Review
The Manhattan Review
Established 1980

Archive > Vol. 7 no. 2


Glyn Maxwell

The Devil at War


That truce didn’t last.
  The dark school dropped its people onto the road
Like dice cast
  Loudly on a classroom desk lid
  As silence starts. Who did that? Well, he did.

We pull away to the hills, from where we see
  Thunder, dawn, or sheer
Emptiness unbolt the clouds, as the thing on high
  Has its one idea:
  Somewhere or here.

The Devil bikes around, helping. He does!
  The Devil is not powerful. He cannot
Die. He steps on a mine, he stubs his toes.
  Like hell they hurt
But he bikes on. He goes
  To a gunman. Have a heart!

He tries
  To free some hostages. He throws his arm
Round homesick Irish, Spanish, Canadian, UN guys
  Who wake up in alarm
Alone, in the cold sunrise.
  He does no harm.

He is spotted moving across
  A no man’s land while corporals scream Go back!
And bullets crisscross
  His mending heart, which can only ache
Or endure loss.
  And is black.

We lose the Devil
  During a siege, but he crops up now in a newsreel
Trying with a Red Cross man to heave some rubble
  Off a shop girl,
But unable,
  And unhopeful.

The Devil we freeze in a frame
  Is stepping back, too tired.
Hands on his head. The Devil is doing the same
  Every day, while the Lord
Locks the gates of a camp, apportions blame.
  Gives His Word.