Monday, 17 December 2012

Winter On Civvy Street

Regular readers will know that I am a shameless Doris Day fan. The National Film Theatre on London’s South Bank is showing some of her movies throughout December and I have managed to catch a couple: Young Man with a Horn, based on the life of legendary Jazz trumpeter Bix Beiderbeck and my favourite Doris Day film, Love Me Or Leave Me. Oh, but it has been a real pre-Christmas treat!


Today’s poem is dedicated to less fortunate people everywhere, especially emotionally damaged ex-service personnel like the subject of the poem with whom I chatted one wintry night in London  several years ago. I bought him a hot meal and a few teas at a nearby café, as he relayed a stumbling, tumbling tale of family life blown apart all but as effectively as a roadside bomb had killed his best friend while serving in Afghanistan. I toyed with the idea of inviting him to share Christmas with me, but when I returned from the café’s toilet, he had gone. I looked, but there was no sign of him amongst a flurry of snow outside.

I tried several times to write a poem about that evening, but have only just completed one of which I like to think he would approve. He would not tell me his name, but I guess he could have been any one of many people returning from fighting this war or that anywhere in the world, unable to return to anything like the way things once were.

Was he gay, people ask? Oh, and what has sexuality to do with it?  True, gay men and women fight in wars, too. (Take the Great War poet, Wilfred Owen to name but one…) As it happens, though, I didn’t ask…and why should I?

One of life’s greater ironies is that peace can be just another war…something perhaps to bear in mind during Christmas or any religious festival calling for peace in our time?


Icicles, dangling from a roof
like frozen tears in a homeless soldier’s beard
house cringing from all it has seen
and heard during years it has stood on the street,
watching war wives and widows struggling
to make frayed ends meet, keep up appearances 
for wishful thinking

Icicles, starting to melt, old house
unashamedly crying for the homeless soldier
walking its street in mid-winter, no place
to call home since returning from the Front Line,
haunted by dead friends, missing comrades,
walking wounded…all terrorising a mind’s eye
with wishful thinking

Icicles, smearing honest brickwork
with what has to be the saddest graffiti nature
ever left (if briefly) on the face of a house,
whose cosy curtains come alive with firelight
and companionable shadows, testament
to a kinder Spirit of Christmas and its poetry
of wishful thinking

Icicles, gone without leaving a trace
like the homeless soldier, long since moved on
to some other blurred, nameless place
that’s, oh, so scarily similar to that Front Line,
tossing images of love, hope, and peace
into the next coffin alongside a growing rage
with wishful thinking

Copyright R. N. Taber 2013

[Note: First published in CC and D v 242, Scars Publications (U.S.) March 2013 and subsequently in The World at War, Forward Press, the same year.]

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