Indeliable stretches the nightly evensong,
An oppressive psalmody to the starved;
Indian file, the overlooked line up
While water thin soup and stale rolls
Are passed out by hollow eyes and
Brisk, well-meaning hands.
Voices from the trenches,
Long dead, wander one-legged,
Or sit quietly in sterile rooms,
Or caress faded medals or memories or a loaded barrel.
Beyond the heavy thought of disregard or heedless ommission
Slumbers a child, an introduction
To something bright and wondrous.
No one knows, where the child goes.
His was a zealous destination,
A heartfelt, flag-waving, hasty midnight parting.
Youth and mettle guided his steps,
While 'By Jingo' plucked at the chords buried deep in his chest.
They all signed up to do their bit;
With lifted chin and honours, fancied, already won,
He took his place among the best-loved sons.
He rose at dawn to tend his sheep,
As his pregnant wife continued to sleep.
His Da had heard old Billy Hughes,
A welshman, tell the nation:
'We are not asked to do more than our share',
And on such words, we build the temples we choose.
So loyalties divided by duty and right,
He left his farm and kissed goodbye his wife.
She stood at the sink, unable to turn
To the empty table behind her
And the memories of her boys:
An hour before sundown, they tumbled in hurly-burly,
Rolling cigarettes, unlacing muddy boots, and dissecting the evening newspaper;
How they filled her soul–
Now stretched across dragging days,
Yearning days, forsaken days;
And the letters arrive, her protests too late,
They arrive after Rommel's 242 days wait;
Long after she stopped staring at the gate.
Maybe we stop once a year to reflect
On the lives lost and what it all meant;
And maybe someone sits up to take note
Of the child before and where he went.
There they gather, unresisting and in shadow,
And will always, in between ghosts and old prayers;
While a dwindling few light candles on knees,
Or scratch down in pen a sillouhette of what was once theirs.
Detached, uncompromised, things to do,
Or maybe give a coin or two;
Surely that's enough to mourn
The lives given, the child foregone.