Still Doing his Bit
Every card and plastic flower
rain-soaked soft toy,
he collects with aching fingers
broken heart ;
this old soldier
marching now on battery power
fills the shopping basket
on his red, mobility scooter
and lurches, wide circle, for home
turning his back on the bare
Wootton War memorial.
He straightens painful creases
wipes, dabs, winds scarlet ribbon, gathers
petals, photos, paper poppies,
dries each heartfelt gift, preserving
to another fallen soldier. Bags
tags and glues every tribute
into unwieldy, weighty volume,
heavy archive boxes. No message lost,
no tear missed, no prayer unheard.
Wearily he sinks into body moulded armchair,
thinks, remembers times
he’d thought long past, lessons
he’d thought learned in
Normandy’s blood soaked fields.
Knobbled fingers brush
painful rhythm on worn
twill trousers. Tearful, he slips
into dreams too terrible to tell,
of other young men, a brother,
cousin, friend. Why was
their loss not lesson enough?