For A Soldier
We sit on chilly steps of cenotaph
Beside the church.
We’ve stumbled on
The funeral of Jordan, back from war
Blown home from dusty, sun-scorched,
Very foreign field.
We join the overspill, heads bowed
Towards the daisies which defy
A sky as dull as rifles gripped
By white-gloved guard of honour.
Last rites are rendered by loud-speaker rig –
The pride, the loss, the eulogy, the prayer,
“Abide With Me”, and trumpeted Last Post.
And then he’s slowly borne
By khaki comrades to the hearse,
His cradle-coffin wrapped in flag
Which says to us that he (and we)
Are victims of a coward parliament
Of red and blue, it’s true, he had to die
As sacrifice to their delusion,
As testament to rulers
Who are foolers of their kind.
Reporter slips a pen inside his coat,
He’s got the line the dying soldier cracked
About that curry when he’s back.
TV girl lifts tripod, knees it shut
And slopes it over shoulder, marches off,
Her mission done, shoot over, eyes down
On phone, for text of next assignment.
Half-muffled bells appeal to baffled friends
Who file away in half-belief.
We shuffle home among them,
One cheek wet.
When words we find, it is to say
How bloody good we English are
At burying our dead.
Also from "Lifelines" - but here a life ended