August Bank Holiday, Essex, 1914

To Essex then, one hundred years ago

to sun-scorched, dusty fields and parched stream beds.

Where windfall codlings pock the russet earth,

September’s fruits come early, and to waste.

 

At Boreham Reverend Yonge mops cobs of sweat

and begs his guv’nor for a dose of rain

as horticultural ladies trim their blooms,

they nip and bud and dream of red rosettes.

 

Down Thaxted way, the labourers are striking

it’s coming up for forty wage-less days.

They roam the country lanes in search of scabs,

as Pankhurst comes, the red flag on her car.

 

The trains are packed from third right through to first,

the coastal steamers coat the blue sky white

as Britain leaves her heartlands for her shore.

From Romford, Dagenham and Tilbury

 

near forty-thousand, swap the clock for sand.

The boarding houses with their lists of rules

and fearsome landladies are full, although

it’s quieter than last year. They know why.

 

A storm is building in the stifling air:

in Chelmsford they can talk of nothing else,

the newsagents are desperate for vendors,

the tittle-tattle’s milled right through the night.

 

Until on Tuesday, everybody knows.

In Southend hundreds gather at the Standard

to read the words they posted in the window.

The tiny wives, umbrellaed by their men.

 

We’re twenty-one today, we’ll make the Kaiser pay

The regulars demob down Mersea Road

while Reverend Yonge in Boreham writes in black:

Bella horrida bella… smite, hell, ruin.

 

L U K E   W R I G H T

@lukewrightpoet || lukewright.co.uk

Listen to Luke read this poem:

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2 thoughts on “August Bank Holiday, Essex, 1914

  1. Pingback: Our first poem release! | Last Poppy Project

  2. Pingback: 100 years on… | Last Poppy Project

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