Old Soldier

Updated: Nov 6, 2019

We will remember them........

Every year I watch the Remembrance Day ceremony which is broadcast on British TV. It’s a strong reminder of the debt we owe to that ever-diminishing group of men and women who fought for our freedom so many years ago. As Churchill so eloquently put it “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few”. Feelings of humility are mixed with sadness and gratitude but really my overwhelming feeling is shame. Shame that the world these men and women fought for has led us to this. A world being recklessly destroyed by shocking greed and disregard for our fellow beings. Where money counts for more than humanity. Where having the latest iPhone is more important than the children exploited in its production. Where many of the men and women who gave us our freedom are left in unheated homes with barely enough money to live on. Where we let our planet be destroyed by our relentless consumption. I started selling poppies here in France in 2012 and have done it every year since. It is my penitence if you like. For being an arsehole much like everyone else. Whinging about what doesn’t really matter. I look at those old boys and girls with their medals and walking sticks, paying their respects to their friends who didn’t make it and wish we lived in the world that they dreamt they were fighting for."

Sarah Heath - Hexagon Space

Unnoticed, he blends into the grey park bench,

eyes clouded and watering,

permanent tears for friends lost in a trench

not quite enough of a life-time ago.

Will anyone acknowledge him?

Smile at him? Say hello?

How many people walk past without seeing?

Are they afraid to take a look

at their future being?

Can see past hands on a walking cane, shaking,

which once held arms straight, which killed

as he dreamed of his mother holding him

close in a muddy field in France, dug in,

his only perspective – the sky – looking up,

imagining his Victoria Cross moment,

which never came.

His history has died with those he has loved:

he exists alone now, his life stored in his head,

musty albums in an abandoned attic.

His film is ending, subtitles about to roll,

last moments of anticipation, will his story change

before the last curtain call?

Was he the star of his own show, his life?

Would that he had been so invisible then,

in that giant gutter, repelling the end

but now the magnet has turned,

death - an indecisive friend.

Ninety odd birthday's leave a stuttering heart

and a once-red poppy, grey.

On a bench, sad fingers trace the brass

in which his wife's name is interred

hearing aid off so his sweetheart's voice

can be clearly heard.

As there will be no 'hello' today.

That's all he wants.

A quiet hello.

So he knows he's not already a ghost.

by Sarah Heath

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