I thought that ‘The War’ was fought in black and white,
that soldiers, sailors, airmen
soared bravely into victorious flight
or landed on beaches handsome, intact
not a finely coiffed hair out of place.
That they survived to marry
a beautiful virgin sweetheart
and lived happily ever after.
I didn’t realise that it was mostly in blood and mud
that that some lived, shat, ate or starved.
That they snatched moments of sleep between battle
beside friends, sometimes just their body parts.
That they cried in the night for their
then ridiculed as a disgrace to Queen and country.
I didn’t know that life could be snuffed out
just like that,
no time for goodbyes or
regrets for lives never lived,
children never really known,
dreams blown apart in an instant.
The lucky ones who lost their lives in a spark.
Then the footage on the cutting room floor
of slow death without dignity,
time to contemplate an agonising blur of grief and loss
The lucky ones who knew love.
When I see the red poppy, the merchandise stalls,
the hovering shadow of recruitment for
those who have nothing at all.
When I think of the endless patriotic queue
to mark the death of an old queen
who died in her sleep.
the constant barrage of manufactured grief
and the never ending
bleating for more and more and more…
by entitled strangers we didn’t elect
till there is nothing left to fight for.
When I think of that I think
If you must wear a poppy wear it white.