Remembering the Dead
On the banks of Gill Pier in Westray
where the sea gulls are cleanest
and the winds are restless and furious
I stooped beside the doctor’s wrecked boat
and took photos of heavy red poppies.
Where are your poppies for the dead?
“Our men were never brought back here.
They’re remembered by the stone crosses
against the dykes in the churchyard.
Ypres, Somme, all parts foreign.
Jus’ lads, bairns, but manly in their uniforms.
We floated what flowers we could
and let the tides take them at any pace.
They’d surely reach Scapa Flow
A fitting place for resting souls
We heard about the poppies in the Somme.”
An outline of the bird of peace
shapes space in Wapping High Street
and owns the memories of Black Saturday.
A faded Legion wreath mounted at the base
harbours the diesel fumes of the River
and moves slightly in the docklands wind
which bumps along ancient eel-fishers’ gullies
From nearby kitchens wives in hijabs
glance at the old men and women
congregating around the plinth
and continue to cup-measure rice from the bag.
In a flash red poppies mark the hour and the day.
Two sisters on a coach trip to Norfolk
gasp at the hedgerows splattered with red.
“Reminds me of the Somme trip last year”
says one and drags the crust from her cheese roll.
“Was it good?”
“Well it was and beautiful. When you think.”
“Why? What did you see?”
“Saw the trenches, heard the bag pipes.
We stood in a round and remembered the dead”.
“Did you cry?”
“No-one to cry for really. But I remembered the dead.”
Pause for reflection.
“Want pickle, Mary?”
by Gillian Lawrence
Up Your Street – the Events for Wapping Seniors
Remembrance Sunday is the anniversary of the end of hostilities of the First World War at 11am in 1918.