1918 – 2018 Last Post

Last Post by Carol Ann Duffy read at the Library by Sian Campbell-Curtiss

If poetry could tell it backwards, true, begin

that moment shrapnel scythed you to the stinking mud . . .

but you get up amazed, watch bled bad blood

run upwards from the slime into its wounds;

see lines and lines of British boys rewind

back to their trenches, kiss the photographs from home –

mothers, sweethearts, sisters, younger brothers

not entering the story now

to die and die and die.

Dulce – No – Decorum – No – Pro patria mori.

You walk away.

 

You walk away; drop your gun (fixed bayonet)

like all your mates do too –

Harry, Tommy, Wilfred, Edward, Bert –

And light a cigarette.

There’s coffee in the square,

warm French bread

and all those thousands dead

are shaking dried mud from their hair

and queuing up for home. Freshly alive,

a lad plays Tipperary to the crowd, released

from History; the glistening, healthy horses fit for heroes, kings.

 

You lean against a wall,

your several million lives still possible

and crammed with love, work, children, talent, English beer, good food.

You see the poet tuck away his pocket book and smile.

 

If poetry could truly tell it backwards,

then it would.

 

 

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