The Kings Head, Market Street, Harwich, 1917

On Market Street near Harwich dock

the shore-leave sailors stop the clock

and fill their throats with yards of beer

as if the final days were here.

 

Debouched and broached, The King’s Head groans

with battered thick-slurred baritones

as fear is scrubbed with boozy prayer

in gas-lit, blue-tinged, smokey air.

 

 

And can you blame these sozzled kids

for wanting some escape from it?

Tomorrow they haul anchor then

they sail away from homes and friends.

 

 

From Danbury; from Peasenhall;

from Edmonton; from Coggeshall;

from terraces up pot-holed lanes

from hamlets never touched by trains

 

 

from farmhouse, workhouse, market hill

from trading streets that chirp and till

from nooks that never make a noise

apprentices and grocer’s boys

 

 

step up and say that they are keen

despite the fact that they’ve all seen

the letters home, the telegrams,

and fresh-faced widows pushing prams.

 

 

They’ve watched their brothers not return

they’ve heard of how their young lungs burned

with gas in reeking sodden ruts

and now they feel it in their guts.

 

 

The churn of dark uncertain days

they gulp it down, the newly brave

play brutes and beasts until they’re sore

and summon what it takes to leave for war.

 

 

L U K E   W R I G H T

@lukewrightpoet || lukewright.co.uk

One thought on “The Kings Head, Market Street, Harwich, 1917

  1. Pingback: Luke’s 4th Poem, featuring Harwich | Last Poppy Project

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