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He got off at the station and paused for a while,
And he lit up a topped cigarette.
He read out the name with a faraway smile,
Which was touched by a twinge of regret.
And he watched the train chuffing away down the track
Past the field where he’d played with the hawthorns cut back.
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He slung his worn kit-bag across his broad shoulder,
And passed through the gap in the wire.
How different it looked being four long years older,
Four years dodging enemy fire.
How many times had he visualised this,
As the yellowy gas bombs fell with a soft hiss?
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Through the streets of the village he slowly made way,
Through the perfume of tended hydrangers,
Past the old village pub with its floral display,
And its proud boast of welcoming strangers.
But the bright coloured garlands evinced a sharp frown
From a man who for years had seen nothing but brown.
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Rasher Kearns left his guts spilt all over the Somme,
Micky Fay died in gas smelling sweetly,
And Francie O’Driscoll was hit by a bomb
And Danny Mac vanished completely.
And the few from the start who’d essayed to survive
Cared not if they finished the Great War alive.
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He came to the gate but he didn’t pass through,
Nor fumble around for the latch.
But he watched the old lady in bright royal blue
On her knees in the vegetable patch.
And he took a last drag of his miniascule smoke,
As he fought back the tears with a desperate choke.
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She turned her head sharply, then cried out with joy,
‘Twas the moment for which she’d been praying,
And she rose to her feet and stared hard at her boy,
With his trouser leg angrily swaying.
And the crutch ‘neath his arm made her shudder in pain,
As she saw he would never play football again.