All our yesterdays

for Sgt. Alfred TERRY (1882 – 1915) (King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry)granddad alfred's centenary 019

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)

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