Paul Klee's surname, translated, means "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 & Faber, 1994), copyright © Tom Paulin 1994, used by permission of the author and the publishers, Faber & Faber and Penguin Books Ltd.

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