Paul Archer - photo Paul Archer - poet, translator



The Return: Wootton Bassett

A Globemaster plane rumbles low
over the town and rips apart
a scar in the bruised clouds
and grieving rain pours out.

The coffins draped in red, white
and blue are carried on black
hearses that descend the street
at a steady and slow march.

At the War Memorial they pause
by fresh flowers beside Remembrance
Sunday poppy wreaths. The church
bell tolls the hour - then silence.

The banners of regiments are lowered,
and bare heads bow, families, friends,
veterans, soldiers and shoppers.
Then a muffled sobbing rends

the air - and we're torn by its grace,
the hand covering the mouth,
the downturned eyes as deep
as funnels, the drawn-in breath.

We should not be here, nor should
they who were young and strong and
had a zest for life that took them
to the soft sands of Afghanistan.

We pull on their body armour,
we feel its weight on our shoulders,
we hide our grieving heads
inside the steel helmets of soldiers,

and so, as the hearses travel past
brothers in arms, babies in arms,
there are salutes and showers of roses
for those who'll suffer no further harm,

and, far from the posturing pretence
and policies that maim and kill,
venture through grateful applause
as polite as the rain falling still.


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