A couple of days ago another procession wound it’s way past the jugglers, the clowns and tired comedians who throng Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. These were the marching bands who marched to commemorate WWI. Incongruous as it may seem, without the men who these soldiers commemorate, there would probably be no Fringe, no freedom of speech and, perhaps, little joy to celebrate.
My Grandfather’s Hand
As a boy I never asked my Grandfather why he limped
on the ice cream spotted days he led me through the park.
I thought all old men walked with steps unevened by time
and never questioned why he would pause beside the memorial
whispering the names of men whose friends had long walked by,
tracing, with twisted fingers, their initials etched in the age browned bronze.
If I’d asked him what happened to the ragged trousered paper boy,
the skint kneed, footballer and the doctor’s son, what would he a have said?
He would have smiled, tousled my hair, and led me on, speaking anything but answers,
while through his mind shrieked shrapnel, mustard gas, shell torn limbs
and memories of laughing young men whose lives the war harvested
from the muddied trenches like ripened wheat.
Boyhood passes just as a Summer’s day fades into the sunset.
Now I walk hand in hand with my grandson through the park,
past the ice cream stall and on, with dripping cone, to the memorial’s frozen warriors.
I know now why he limped, after he died they told me of a place called Vimy Ridge,
and the part he played in the awful twisted charade we call war.
He limped for me, for the boy who holds my hand, for all of us,
so we may walk, on summer’s days, and never know the horror he knew
or see our friends names carved in bronze beneath a statue in the park.
It’s a long time since a I wrote a poem but this march seemed to stir memories long forgotten.
My generation has been spared the horror of war, the price for our peace was paid long ago.
Let’s not forget.