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November 13, 2022

I’m grateful to Marilyn and Howard Timms for including two poems of mine, with recordings of me reading them, in their “Remembrance” issue of Wildfire Words. Both my Grandfathers fought in Normandy in the First World War. Both survived, one to become a successful architect, the other, damaged both by the expereience of combat and by his time as a prisoner of war, to abandon his family in Canada, where he died in 1969 of a surfeit of Canada Club whisky. His wife, with two young children, made her way back to her parents in England and worked as a housekeeper. One of her employers was a Scottish landowner who was exceptionally kind to me when I went to stay at the age of four.

‘Lest We Forget’

The granite glitters in late-autumn sun,
listing the wartime dead by name and date.
Our local limestone’s memory is short:
the words would fade, erased by acid rain.

Each scarlet poppy is a blush of shame
for shattered men who begged on London streets,
for victory bought with personal defeat,
for body-parts buried without a name,

for Grandad with his Military Cross
his nightmares and his whisky-happy days,
for horror hidden in a hackneyed phrase,
for each November’s litany of loss.

Memories are short. Smart-bomb and drone
make mockery of letters cut in stone.

The Round Garden at Pityoulish

On the shore of the loch
he built a walled garden
crossed by two paths

I drew it for years
a cross in a circle
a spell to remember
a summer of wonder

a boathouse where sunlight
slipped in through the cracks
bright stripes in the darkness 
duckboards underfoot

a boat that he nudged
into open water
nosing through whisper
and chirrup of reedbeds

pines on the far shore
hills blue with distance
heat-haze and oar-creak
and the gift of kindness
from a childless man

Seventy years later
I discover his story

a young wife
a young son
both lives cut short
just ten days apart

heartsick and smarting
I scroll the Google map
click to satellite
zoom till the dark squares
tumble into
soft unfocussed
blueblack water

follow the shoreline

no sign of a boathouse

no trace of a garden

And I’m delighted to have a poem in One Sentence Poems this week. Here it is. There was a reason I wrote it first in French, but I’ve forgotten what it was.

Un Autre Fois

Dans un autre bois
un autre soir
on vient voir
les feux de l’automne
et la pluie pointilliste
la pluie qui lave
les feuilles vermoulues
sur lesquelles sont écrits
les quatre vingt dix neuf
prénoms du dieu.

Another Time

In another wood
another evening
we come to see
autumn fires
and pointillist rain
that washes clean
the worm-eaten leaves
on which are written
the nine and ninety
names of god.

Posted by Ama Bolton 13 November 2022

One Comment leave one →
  1. November 14, 2022 3:12 pm

    A great time for remembrance of whoever and whenever. Lest we Forget is so personal. The Round Garden at Pityoulish entices the thoughts.

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