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
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