Buy a poppy, don’t think about it just buy one. Ignore the politicians, it’s not political, ignore the celebrities, it’s not celebratory, don’t buy one just to be seen wearing it, it’s not an accessory. Buy a poppy because our servicemen and women, ex and on duty, need our help and a small demonstration of our appreciation. There are now no first world war veterans left and there are fewer second world war vets every year but that doesn’t mean that the poppy is losing its relevance, the poppy appeal helps servicemen and women from all conflicts, even those who see no active service. The point is to give something back to people who give everything and receive little in return. This isn’t about being pro-war, personally I hate everything about it but in a time when less than thirty percent of the population would be willing to defend their country I recognise that someone has to do it and the physical and mental damage they suffer in our stead can be terrible. Historically we haven’t been very good at looking after them, the tattered Union Jack isn’t a comment about the state of the nation but rather a reflection on the reality awaiting many ex-service personnel. For instance, it has long been noted that more Falkland veterans have committed suicide since returning than actually died in the war. It is difficult to prove that this is all related to their service, but even one soldier taking his life because he can no longer carry his burden is too many. The donation you give will help, and the vast majority of the money ends up where it is needed as the Royal British Legion is very good at running a frugal admin ship, so please, don’t just look at the poppy box or over the poppy box, buy a poppy and if you feel you should, wear it.


The clockwork train.

The honour martyr sways
the memory glass is black.
Dancing on his father’s feet
slow, slow, quick-quick, slow.
Unbowed from slights
the ropes of sleet
he laughs right back.
The best of last days,
shop window pentimento
upon reflection of fairy lights.

The life is short but the living is long
he tries to trace where innocence went.
Harks to the sweet herald angel’s song
the so pale happiness of Christmas spent.

Shop glass blue with alphabet clouds
small boy’s eyes within the pane
clothes much older than his years
counsel wisely against the cold.
Oblivious to the milling crowds
want behind meticulous mask
he looks towards a clockwork train
pearlescent paint and glittering gears.
Should speak up but knows he won’t
remembers what he once was told.
‘You never get it if you ask,
you didn’t want it if you don’t.’
In the shadow of paternal love
drawn to the hearth of held hands
he lifts his sight to gaze above
the holy spire is dreaming.
He sees his father making plans,
the gleam in his welkin eye,
his secret smile is beaming
his head touches the sky.

The honour martyr kneels
the memory glass is black.
Hung in shell and shock
the life the lie betrays
wants to get its coat.
The changed mind reveals
thoughts the hurt obeys
breath now ragged cloth
heavy and bloodstained
catches in his throat.
From poppy to poppycock
fear with wings restrained
the soft serrated tack
of a feathered moth.

Floor of present falling through
giving way to basement still
pyjama buttons thumbed askew.
Flooding back he cannot stem
clumsy bow on tartan gown
warm wooden window sill
glass pink with twinkle town
cranes for carol singer hem.
He turns in time with Christmas tree winks
the moment caught in ageless strobe
his father raising merry drinks
his mother with laugh and perfume twist.
A gentle touch behind each lobe
a gentle touch upon each wrist.

The honour martyr falls,
the memory glass is black.
Hands press a flower of prayer
memory off the beaten track
skimming palms on tussock grass
mother’s fragrance in the air.
All good men will come to pass
amidst the shouts, the shots, the smoke
wheels within wheels within wheels
wild firing at the whites of lies
no laughter at the killing joke.

When after all these years,
bruised peach, heart the stone
he tries to claim the prize
his pleas fall on god’s deaf ears,
Take me, Take me, Take me in
fallen stars still burn the skin
theirs not to reason why.
His one desire to atone,
to be delivered from his sin
to work the honest loam
in the promised land.

But someone else takes his hand,
leads not to heaven but to home
when he looks up his father’s head
seems to touch the sky.

Over fifty miles
and fifty years away
the boy lies in the safe bed
waiting, waiting to be tucked in.
‘Make it like a U daddy, tight.’
Tomorrow is Christmas day,
the clockwork train.
His eyes close and the soldier smiles
as his parents kiss him goodnight.

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