Red and White Poppies

1 Leave a comment on verse 1 0 When I was a kid,
Sitting with my grannie by the fireside back in 1956,
She used to tell me how the smouldering bits of soot,
Glowing on the fire-back, were really old soldiers,
“They never die, Stuart, they only fade away.”
And it was only late yesterday,
When lighting a fire for the first time,
In our brand new fireplace in our old Edwardian home,
That I remembered that cosy comfy scene,
And thought of how my gran could not have been just talking to me,
When we snuggled down together in the brown armchair,
But she must have been talking to all those young men she had known,
Who went away, all those years before,
Never to return from the battle fields of the Great War;
To be honest, though, my thoughts usually drift towards the trenches,
At this melancholy Remembrance time of year,
And as my train trundled through the autumn Cotswold woods,
I glanced at the ten young men in my carriage,
All drinking and laughing, all in their Swindon football shirts,
All off to London for a stag week-end,
Trying to get tickets for Fulham versus Liverpool,
Half-cut on a mobile ‘phone,
“Won’t there be a scene at the Fulham end,
When we cheer the Liverpool goals.”
And I thought of these 10 young men later that afternoon,
When talking with my mum about the ornate coffee pot
That used to hold her geraniums,
But which she then gave to me when she told me the story
Of how it was a gift to her Auntie Elsie,
From Elsie’s young fiancée, back in 1915,
(Mum can’t remember his name now)
But he was killed at Gallipoli,
And a distraught Elsie never married,
Instead, she went into service at Buckingham Palace,
And she sort of disappeared from family life.
But mum pointed her out in a photograph,
A cheerless Great War marriage picture of other relatives,
All sitting in the middle of a new redbrick terrace street,
And we sat and stared in empathetic silence,
Until mum then pointed to another auntie,
A tiny girl in a great big hat who died young and early,
“A dwarf”, my sister Fliss said,
“She was a dwarf.”
Fliss has the small wooden chair,
Made to celebrate the birth of that girl,
Made by my great grand-father back in 1910,
And now that our house, built in 1910,
Is close to completed renovation,
Fliss intends to mark the occasion by giving me that small seat;
And I might well mark the occasion
By placing a red poppy upon it,
As an act of remembrance and thanks,
For when I left my mum that Saturday afternoon,
And I gave her a poppy to wear in her buttonhole,
She recalled how she used to sell poppies in the street
Back in the 1920’s for the wounded and the disabled soldiers,
“It’s what children did after the Great War”, she said.
And as I write these lines the next day,
Listening to Fulham versus Liverpool on the radio,
I think again about those 10 young men at the match,
And decide I’ll have to place a white poppy upon that chair too.


Every year I face the same internal debate about whether I should wear a red poppy or both a red and a white. I suppose I’m sitting on the seat here.

Source: http://footballpoets.org/poems/red-and-white-poppies/