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