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Tag Archives duty


The groundsman was already burning leaves.


Each working day, I was paid to lead

other people’s children through the labyrinth

of language – received, standard. (For some,

it was the wrong one – language or labyrinth.

They had their own minotaurs at home,

on the streets). And each day, I would drive back

to smiles and books and weathered bricks and luck.


Watching the smoke drift, I was surprised

to be still there, trying to unload

the dice from some sense of duty –

and something not a little like love.



Posing for the camera’s long exposure,

his right foot firmly on the sledge, in bone

numbing, heart contracting temperatures,

was perhaps what brought that look into Scott’s eyes.

And the eyes always have it: his say,

I do not want to be here. Maybe that’s

twenty-twenty hindsight since we know

how it ends, with all the heroes dead.


Once this seemed to me a simple tale

of jingoism, derring do, class and

sacrifice, a prequel to The Somme.



Before Churchill took the railings, evacuees

from Liverpool were lined up by the park

one September Sunday afternoon.

Local residents queued to take their pick.

Innocent days! My widowed Granny

and two spinster aunties – ex-Scousers

(though Toxteth Park not Scottie Road),

the sisters Great War collateral damage –

lined up to do their duty. They couldn’t cope.

The one they chose used the ‘f word’

and wet the bed. They gave her back

– and mentioned her,