20 July 1969

20 July 1969

Sunday in August, and the Dog and Duck is packed.
Church goers and golfers convivially discuss
the vicar’s new wife, or their slice on the ninth
and wish they'd spent less time in the rough.


Those who sang ‘Sheep may safely graze’ just an hour ago
buy the vicar large sherries to help save their souls.

At home roast lamb waits with the wife and the dog.
She reads the Observer and the cabbage grows cold.


At the bar, the butcher slowly sups his light and mild
with a whiskey chaser, a habit acquired
in his conscripted past, when a stray German bomb
gave him a ghastly glimpse of his own kingdom come.


And though at the end of each long working day                         
he intently scrubs the blood from under his nails
he can’t quite remove the faint scent of a place                   
where men hacked into flesh and spilled their entrails.


On Sunday he puts on a clean, crisp, white shirt
while his wife starches a new, stiff, white collar.                          
He buttons it down: a tourniquet applied,      
‘Careless words cost lives’ – thus thinks the old soldier.


His young son once asked, ‘Dad, what did you do in the war?’
he just said, ‘Nothing much really, hardly nothing at all.           
Mostly KP parade – you know, peeling some spuds -                  
It was a different world then - I can barely recall.’


Now the son is a man, he won’t drink with his dad
but prefers real ale and rugby and banter with mates.                    
A chicken in a basket is all he knows of his dad’s trade.
He'll be rich when he graduates – an accountant perhaps.


The landlord calls time and the father goes home,
while his son sneaks across the estate  to the new Prince of Wales
The village bobby arrives and suggests a lock in
and prop challenges wing to a swift yard of ale.


Soon men will stand on an alien soil
And take that giant step for all mankind.
But how much further must a son reach out
to grasp the thoughts of a father’s mind?

 

 

Notes:

Poetry group, Stirling Creative Writers Society Anthology 'Connections'