Before the day closes, here is my act of remembrance. Back in 2014, this poem was inspired by the statue of an Unknown Soldier in Paddington Station. The Tommy is wearing a long hand-knit scarf over his uniform and reading a letter, perhaps from home.
Her tapped-out knit-one-purl
was a private Morse code
as much lullaby as distress-call
between Field Service Postcards
from France. Her autumn spent
picking up and slipping stitches
to shoulder you from afar.
Today it is a coil of python
a slithering bundle of welted yarn
wrapping your jugular: a ribbed
belt of bullets machine-gun issue
pulling your bowed head to assent.
Then it was a muffler, her umbilical
shawl of twice-ravelled wool
that clicked and twitched
over many a clock-ticked night
into a candlewick fabric, elastic
boy-looped, long as a man:
a fleece itching with unsaid words
still warm with smells of her.
Did she cosset you, Tommy?
Fuss and mither you? Dab
spittle to polish you, tidy a wisp
of hair under your trench cap
when you defied her at last
and donned Kitchener's Blue?
Before this tasselled winding-cloth
you lay cat's cradled in a weft
of barbed-wire bindweed
that snagged on her name and stuck
for the two days it took to die.
A jagged casting-off attended by
No Man's rats and bluebottles.
Your fingers laced around her letter
in a certain light, are skeletal
but stubby nails, bent eyelashes
and boy-man jutting chin, are molten
unresolved, alive in metal.