“Content influenced by family memories and in memory of my Great-Grandfather who was an infantryman and stretcher bearer for all 4 years of the Great War, and returned a different man. This poem centres on one period of leave, when he returned home with his uniform covered in blood and other body parts, as his friend was killed immediately next to him in a trench. They all wore their old uniforms on periods of leave, carrying fresh at times , to stop them from being sent back too soon, which happened to those travelling North, with fresh new uniforms on.” Service Nos 5313 – Private John W Hunter – York Regiment 1914-1918.
In silence they sat glazed, furrowed, ploughed,
Comforting cradle sway, the rhythm of the tracks.
Nothing of value can be said right now,
At the fields they stared, no whistles or cracks.
Each got off, the horrors boxed, now collected,
Jack looked up and nodded, his band of bloodied brothers,
the Pride of Yorkshire which left the carriage, now infested,
His slow walk up the hill, he knocks at his mother’s.
Precaution door opened, mother fell, he grabbed her,
With guilt, the lice fell off, Fleas they too synchronised.
A fortnight’ reprieve, they gave this battered soldier,
Mother walked him to the stables, stripped and hypnotized.
She softly washed her boy in silence, breaking and gently weeping,
Jack grabbed her pinny desperate, as she washed and held his head.
They burnt his crusted uniform, with blood the constant seeping,
The forgiving hay absorbed the last, tears fell for his friends, now dead.
Two weeks he sat, cocooned a fireside to yield,
His Father’s shirt sat on his skin, so soft.
Tomorrow he goes south again, to the rats and killing fields,
Green Dales will be replaced by mud and bombs and shots.
He worked that bloodied land, ploughed red for four long years,
Carrying contorted bodies, alive and dead from no man’s land.
He returned home again in silence, no handshakes, flags or cheers,
Then sat at that fire, each Christmas passing, staring at his shaking hands.
A gentle man, my Great-Granddad, true Yorkshireman and grand,
His wife still singing, he left that fire, which robbed his many years,
And with suit now on, a smile uncovered, holding little Susan’s hand,
Park walks, greenery and silence whilst pointing out the flowers.
Copyright Pedro Bat Poet 2018