A Poppy Garland for the Centenary of the First World War


Farmed out to garrison towns, the incredible
men to whom you owe leisure waited in barracks
to entrench England’s liberty – the syntax
of the avant-garde breaking as they fell;

to march on, suffering gangrene and sepsis
and see their mates mown down. Some for disposal’s sake
upended as from a kiddies’ dumping truck
dispersing a cromlech of shovelled corpses.

These rocks are eggs the weasel smashed, burst boulders
that incubate no growth, wounds that will not heal
nor ever speak, as burst wallets reveal
the importance of sweethearts to young soldiers.

The lads straight out of school, son, lover, soldier,
in whom so many roles were played, now lie dead
where blowflies frenzy in the webs of blood
there to lust like harpies the carrion aura.

Ploughed into ruck and loam, where poppy flames
are blood become the viaticum of Christ,
their sacrifice has saved you, whose spirits were released
like bullets into graves that bear no names.

If the temporal contains eternity
then assuredly hell is here, for here heaves
the stench of the damned cooking in their graves.
No fresh May sprigs deodorize such history.

Gorging the blood of tyrants will not appease
the earth or refresh the crops. Blood will spill
and atone for nothing. The tyrants will
rise again, among other flames than these.