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, like rain, our grief floods out.

A church bell tolls. Over the brow
Of the damp street the black hearses,
Bearing coffins draped in red, white
And blue, process at walking pace.

They pause at the War Memorial.
Fresh flowers beside Remembrance
Sunday poppy wreaths. The church
Bell tolls the hour - then silence.

Regimental banners are lowered,
And our heads bow, families, friends,
Veterans, soldiers and shoppers.
Then a muffled sobbing rends

The air - and we're torn by its softness,
The hands over crumpled mouths,
The down-verted eyes as deep
As funnels, the drawn-in breaths.

Like us, the dead should not be here.
They were fit and straight and
Had a zest for life that took them
To the soft sands of Afghanistan.

We put on their body armour,
We feel the weight on our shoulders.
We drench ourselves in their sweat
And the battle's noise-shattering-noise.

The procession travels on past
Brothers in arms, babies in arms,
Salutes and showers of roses.
These men are free from further harm,

Far from the pretence and posturing
Around policies that maim and kill,
Venturing through grateful applause
As polite as the rain falling still.


© Paul Archer - All Rights Reserved