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Contents Page: July, 2010, vol 6 no 2

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Ken Jones

The Fortress

Ramming home
with vehemence
a cannon ball
of straw

Each black lacquered shako sparkles in the sunshine. The choreography of the gun crew is a delight. Taper to touch hole in a single fastidious gesture. The powder flares and  BANG ! – followed by a camera flash. Out from a cloud of black smoke the projectile sizzles down harmlessly into the moat only a few yards away.

Inside the fortress is a warren of echoing brick corridors and casemates where wax work figures replace actors. This powder monkey has an electronic device concealed somewhere about his person.

Wax faced gunners
triggered into action
by an idle tourist

And here are more soldiers,  expressionless and playing cards – or, rather, their fascinating uniforms are playing cards

This reanimated  corner of the fortress  reflects something of the original garrison, who departed in the 1920s. A sepia photograph of 1890 shows them on parade, and it is their band that takes pride of place.  Next to it is a heavily posed photo which translates as Cyclists at Bay.  The less soldierly were posted here: the medically unfit; the politically unreliable; the elderly family men. Naarden was a seventeenth century deterrent which cost the embattled Dutch Republic the equivalent of a couple of Polaris nuclear submarines.  But it saw very little action, though only a ten minute ride on the no. 80 bus from Weesp Station, on the Amsterdam line.

Upside down
the busy reflection
of a wind pump

Not another Liège, where cruel German parachutists landed on the roof and pushed flame throwers down the ventilation shafts to roast the elderly reservists crouched below. However, on moonlit nights star shaped Naarden became a welcome marker for limping British bombers trying to find their way home, after torching some German city.

Naarden itself has become a fossil town, lost to the world  within its enormous grass-grown fortifications and the double moat which forms an encircling lake. Five of the six projecting bastions are now nature reserves crowned with impenetrable scrub. This lazy afternoon only a warm breeze ruffles the moat, where swans glide beneath a cannon’s mouth.

Two metres thick
of little bricks
a star shaped bastion
dreams on



Published in The Unseen Wind: British Haiku Society Haibun Anthology 2009, Lynne Rees and Jo Pacsoo (Editors), British Haiku Society.

 

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