Friday, 21 September 2018

Memorial stones

I wrote this poem after a recent walk with a local writing group around St Dogmaels, a lovely riverside village not far from where I live. I was struck by the stones around the village, on the banks of the river, at the mill, in the graveyard, and the Abbey ruins -- all of them part of the lives of all who live, or have ever lived there. For me, these stones that we live with daily are as much a part of remembrance as the village war memorial.
All the names in the poem are recorded on that memorial for the years 1914-1918.

Memorial stones

Did they play together as boys,

diving and dipping in fantasy  battles

among headstones in the churchyard,

sniping with make-believe rifles.

Bang bang. Who died first?

Craig, Davies, Dunstan or Evans

Did they spin flat pebbles over rippling water

there by the Degwel stream

where the Teifi bends wide towards the sea.

Who scored most hits?

Gibbons, Green, Griffiths, Harper

Did they race along muddy banks,

boots sucked into silt

(who got stuck, who pulled him out?)

Isaac, James, Jenkins, John

At the Blessing Stone did they stand atop

to play the shouting game,

hear the magic echo come straight back

across brown water. Whose cry was loudest?

Jones, Ladd, Lloyd, McFadden

Did they help each other clamber over

crumbling Abbey walls

to play their throwing games,

chucking  ancient rocks to the ground.

Who hit most targets?

Morris, Owen, Niles, Phillips

Did they shoot pebbles from catapults

at rats running for the drains.

Who bagged most tails?

Pope, Protheroe, Rees, Richards

As they leant against the old millstones

in the setting sun

feeling the furrows and lands

rough against their palms,

their too-soft hands,

did they idly wonder about war,

predict possible postings.

Roberts, Thomas, Williams

Did they walk with their girls

on their last nights at home,

hide behind ruined walls,

make heartfelt  trysts,

promises of sweet futures

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