Posted in Death

Abroad

He was 19 when it began
working as a printer
playing sport on Wednesday half holiday
and again Saturday afternoon.
Doing the things 19-year-olds do
learning about cigarettes and beer
and discovering women liked him
he always admitted surprise to that.

Grandma said he only had to hear a ball bounce
and would rush to join in.
War
just another game
minus Queensberry rules
it would all be over by Christmas
a chance to go to England
perhaps stay on and tour the continent.

Ypres.
Somme.
Messines.
Passchendaele
as much him as the four yet to be born children.
Chlorine.
Typhoid.
Shrapnel
strained through mud into DNA.

Very few of his intake returned
the family never knew the percentage
or exactly how many death declined at the smorgasbord
“not many.” Two words. One answer. Zero addition.
“Not many.” Usually defined by single figures.

Death. Always on the take
even when the present is vacated to past
an absentee landlord extracting arrears.
It wasn’t the nightmares
they ceased after two decades
the lungs of barbed wire
bloody mindedness overcame that
or the loss of beloved sport
self-employment abducted any training time.
It was youth
dead and buried in Belgium’s fields.
He was old at 21.

For the back story click Backstage
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Author:

Most of my life has been spent on the bench, occasionally called into the game by extravagance or attenuation. Waiting has turned a loner into a recorder - nondescript and inconsequential, more not noticed than overlooked - the non-vantage point of children not yet considered old enough to understand. Orphaned Islands (Un)poetry is a lifetime of picking anecdotes up and not throwing them away. Stories collected like odds and ends placed in a box in the basement, the garage, the garden shed - uncertain as to what their use might be but knowing that one day there might be one.