for Sgt. Alfred TERRY (1882 – 1915) (King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry)
Never go back
That’s the wisdom. You can’t
step in the same river twice.
Where’s the bank, my chapel,
where’s the fire station?
But my grandparents’ grave
is where it was, not vandalised,
though the plinth’s knocked skew
by a clumsy tractor mowing grass.
Alfred’s been dead a hundred years
today. An actor’s dressed
in a sergeant’s uniform,
a faithful replica of everything
but mud, sweat, lice,
rips from snarls of wire,
fumbled stitches, burns, blood.
The rifle’s spotless. Never fired.
And all this is accurate.
Alfred never saw The Front,
knee-deep slurry trenches,
never trudged through Picardy
watching men and horses drown.
His uniform was always drill-hall smart.
Going back is fine, today .
The Chapel of Rest a museum
where reverence is on display
like something solid people
used to do, when the air was thick
with mill-smoke, lanolin, temperance.
(2015. A small ceremony to commemorate the 100th anniversary of my Grand-dad Alfred’s death. And for all the fallen in all the wars)