Monday, 4 August 2014

Two 'War' Poems

Grandfather 1978

he is sitting in a high-backed chair watching fat wrestlers on TV
the screen thicker than a cartoon character’s glasses

his shirt grimy collared fraying around the cuffs     his trousers
great clown-worthy trousers imprisoned in braces
and a belt surely made from the side of a cow

the liver-spotted arms    the muscles thin as his hair   
that finger    the third on his left hand knuckled short
as if a knife has been taken to it as vicious as the one he uses
to de-string sausages for tea

and the sigh he gives when
I ask how the finger was lost

the words he speaks

Mametz    Neuve Chappelle    Wipers and finally

Passchendaele    said as if his mouth is clotted with mud


Some days we receive them as gift,
held above us like snow falling,
yet seeming to rise, threads packed thickly,
heavy with names. Threatening to wipe away
the familiar paths beneath our feet.

Down here there is nothing,
but waiting, trying to remember
the lessons that would make us safe,
forgetting how when the storm comes we shall
find nothing to cling to, the night
slick with ice; how it is possible for frost to be made

in summer, how there can be emblems waved,
celebrations at which no one is found.

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