An Alternative View

[I don’t think I’ve posted this one before.]

*

I remember

a black and white photo of a boy

in bed on Christmas morning,

a model-plane kit on the blanket;

coloured in my memory.

I remember hands hurting in the snow;

throbbing pink after snowballing.

I remember no Christmas tree

but the dry weightlessness

of balsa wood and pressing pins

to secure wings to paper

plan; sharp addictive smell

of glue and drum-like tautness

of dope-stretched tissue across

wing ribs and fuselage; winding up

elastic band powered propeller. Its level flight

reward enough for patience.

I remember a solid fuel pack

when lit sent another plane

out of sight with a fizz and a buzz

and a burnt chemical stink. I lost that plane

when it flew over roof tops.

I remember gazing at grey snowflakes

drifting against a bright sky and wondering

why everyone said snow was white.

Remembrance

cenotaph

My father lost two older brothers in the war; both were in their early twenties. This must have had a profound effect on him which at the time I didn’t fully appreciate. As far as I can tell he wrote this poem in his late sixties or perhaps even in his seventh decade. It was published in a Quaker booklet in 1975. (He and my mother joined the Society of Friends [Quakers] in the 1950s.)

Remembrance Days

The toy soldiers stiffly stand

the picture horses prance;

Established Persons of our Land

assume the ritual stance.

*

As dank November drizzle falls,

Cenotaph an ageing ghost,

sharply a brazen bugle calls

living and dead to a Last Post.

The stale and spectral pageant past,

strained puppets break their string;

the tired flag creeps up the mast,

and swinging London resumes her swing.

*

But a distant summer day I see,

an anxious schoolboy, when my mother

steadied a hand against a tree

and told me I had lost a brother.

So comes it every drear November

I cannot stiffen to command;

so many days when I remember

a mother’s voice, her deathly hand.

 

Fred J. Nicholson

1903-1990