I’m with him
On the lawn that he has mown with precision.
We both stand down after tending his precious rows,
Blood-red roses, always his favourite.
One special rose takes pride of place,
On a slow, sunny Sunday,
Sat in his upturned wheelbarrow,
Ploughed field of a wrinkled face
Set off by twinkling blue eyes above,
Bright as flares on a starlit night.
Woodbine entrenched in the corner of his mouth.
“when Lieutenant Smithies arrived, new to the front,
He hadn’t seen the neat lines of men
Mown down by machine gun.
He paraded on the fire step to show he had no fear,
Top of his bloody head blown apart in two minutes!”
The no-man’s land between us
Plays out a Christmas-truce football match.
I think it’s a draw.
Now he’s studying
Motorway traffic on the bridge.
“There’s been seventy four lorries this last hour alone,
That’s twenty more than yesterday,
You’d think there was a big push on.”
The blue stars turn to a piercing storm,
“Did you buy that motorbike,
Despite what I said?
Bloody dangerous things,
Kill you as soon as look at you.”
“Yes, I did.”
“Well, I’d better get you some proper boots,
No grandson of mine
Is going to moan about
Trench foot from riding his bike.
Now, have I got to watch that
Bloody rugby today?
You know very well it’s
Wrestling on a Saturday afternoon.
What’s that Grammar School taught you?
What’s wrong with football?
If you think I’m putting up with this
Four times a year
You’ve got another think coming.”
Hostilities break out again,
An echo of his life some fifty years before.
Except these are gentle, loving skirmishes.
© Ray Stearn 2nd October 2009, revised 5th November 2015