A Ballad of the Fallen

 You never know when you stop
 On a corner to enquire the health
 Of a cousin and his own, if he
 Loiters occasionally, a watcher
 In long light, a survivor of the fight,
 On a corner of this deserted street
 In our old town of memory – O!
 Such a place! Windows and bells!
 Familiar shadows, muffled yells,
 The thud of lead entering flesh,
 Cloud-parted mothers reaching – 
 ‘I only aimed at their legs!’ Patch
 Protesting from his enemy’s stone,
 Hands clasped in forgiving prayer.
 A sniper’s distraction, a lucky
 Deflection, and the longest life
 In the village, following the stream
 Day by day to its spring. O! It must be
 Not the Fallen who gather, for this
 Is the moment to run regret’s
 Melancholy finger over tobacco-tin dents
 Buttoned by heart’s miracle breast,
 To stand in the chill of November,
 Colours dipped, and tight-lipped bugler,
 Children to chatter on corners
 Of perpetual towns, and ghosts
 To run from bar to bar, from aunt
 To uncle, from childhood to battle,
 To stand bareheaded, free to speak,
 To stand with Binyon on Beeny cliff,
 To peer across a steely sea, to ask
 ‘What if?’ and remember, remember
 Not merely the Fallen, but to stand
 Quietly on November’s Fallen street,
 To stand each year with the survivor,
 To hear the children on the swings,
 To know that all, beyond Binyon’s
 Northerly horizon, will once more,
 When bugles fade on silent fields,
 That all, in No-Man’s-Land, will meet.