I knew the war from films.
Poor Kenneth More lost both his legs
reaching for the sky. Richard Todd & co
busted a dam, whose I don’t recall,
to music we da-da-ed to in the playground.
In 1952 I found a tin of treasure
on a beech leaf-covered mound:
Gold discs on ribbons, shaped like stars.
At school there was a teacher –
I can see his face but not his name –
who laid his head on the desk and wept.
“Oh God, Oh God, Oh God.”
He had sheer cheekbones
and lines that ran like taut reigns
in a vee from nose to chin. “Jap’s”,
my brother hissed as he kicked my shin.
There was Ice Cold in Alex, Dunkirk,
and the one where David Niven lost his life,
climbed lots of stairs and came back down again.
I remember dried bananas, powdered egg and milk.
At weekends we played cowboys and Indians
by the graveyard stile, with cap-pistols
and rubber tomahawks.
Shoot to kill and scalp as much as you can.
After tea – fish paste sandwiches
and lemon squash – I’d kneel by my bed
and thank baby Jesus for the day.
I loved mummy and daddy
my one-eyed bear and hated boys.
War was just a game you’d play back then.