Rosemary Purse-Robinson

HIGHEST DEATH TOLL PER CAPITA

in April’s
tranquil weather… wearing
my own first gym-slip
uniform …and thousands
of news broadcasts
all heard in hushed houses
transmute in unison
in every city
town and hamlet

to the bark of command

metal-plated boots clipping
scraping grating
medals shined winking
clinking old soldiers
shuffle snuffle
clearing throats

once the numbness
staunched the bloody emotions
but stiff upper lips tremble today
again all flags at the half
filing past the cenotaph

orphaned:
brownies girl-guides
boys-brigade
marching teams
golden legs pumping
civic bands thumping
to pull the parade

through the streets
of autumn leaves wood-smoke
marigolds chrysanthemums
acrid bittersweet…
sulphuric memories