In my early twenties the king
put me in a uniform of itchy green
and taught me how to shoot
men of my age all over Europe.
Blisters stung my quick march
and I learned to imagine villages
as they might have been before
fire and rubble was all the rage.
When friends knew their fate
at the bullet’s keen-eyed rake
I found my haversack neatly hid tears
and packed them ready for home.
In a demob suit I forgot most of it,
skills and talents ill-fitted to a clerk
but dreams often remind me
of the procedure of death, its science.
Straightening after laying flowers
in Autumn’s late afternoon nip
I hear the putter of a digger;
industry at work in this peace
as they heap the clay-bound soil
for a body, box and ending.
Next come boards and green mats
to guard against the horror of a fall
or the taint of the grave’s mud.
Then they’re drinking tea in the truck:
one eagerly scours the back pages,
the other’s hunched over his phone.
What will come later shouldn’t be seen.
There are top-hats and frock coats,
red-faced mourners, others pale,
all crowded in black, shuffling
behind the too-new pine casket,
a gaudy brass-handled sideboard.
After, they will heap back the earth.
Clods will thud dully on the coffin,
spades reporting on stones as
their work is completed yet undone
and someone’s quiet story
fades to the silence beneath.
Copyright © Ben Banyard 2015
Ben Banyard’s poetry has appeared in Popshot, The Interpreter’s House, The Broadsheet, London Grip and Ink Sweat & Tears amongst others, and is forthcoming in Prole and RAUM. His debut pamphlet, Communing, will be published by Indigo Dreams in 2016. Ben edits Clear Poetry, a blog dedicated to featuring accessible work by newcomers and old hands alike: https://clearpoetry.wordpress.com