In My Name

1 Leave a comment on verse 1 0 When you’re out there digging your mum’s garden
And it’s a blue sky March Saturday
And you’re out there Oedipun alone
With all your childhood memories,
After starting the day in Stroud
Reading the parish council poster board,
“Were you in Stroud in World War 2?”
“Do you have any artefacts to share?”
Things in are in your mind
When you go into your dead dad’s shed,
And see him there in his proud new uniform,
Clutching his letters from Tobruk,
And twiddling the knobs on his massive Chindit radio,
Smiling in a new century’s motes and beams,
As the spring sun poured in through that dusty Swindon window,
And you think that you might just offer Stroud Museum
A cutting of the vine that grew in the greenhouse,
The greenhouse where the Anderson bomb shelter used to be,
The old bomb shelter just outside this very shed window,
The vine that grew from a cutting from just outside this very shed window,
And that now clambers up over my Stroud home back yard fence;
It would be a sort of swords into ploughshares symbolic offering.
And you catch the bus back into town,
Going past the empty stadium’s bus stop
That was once your fortnightly pilgrimage,
Where you see the flags unfurled and hanging from the bedroom windows,
A patriotic display of support for sons and brothers, I suppose,
Now serving His Majesty overseas,
(And it’s Tommy this and Tommy that, an Tommy wait outside
But it’s special train for Atkins when the trooper’s on the tide,
The troopship’s on the tide my boys, the troopship’s on the tide
O it’s special train for Atkins when the troopers on the tide)
And so once more you feel a stranger in your own country,
This England, My England too,
Where the TV triumphalism of Victory
Has once more stolen your colours,
And silenced any possibility,
Silenced any possibility,
Of any sort of plurality
Of inter-textual playful interpretation,
Of the meaning of a red cross on your t-shirt,
For in War you’re either for us or against us,
In the tabloid game boy breaking news nightmare,
Of unconscious manipulation,
Of unconscious manipulation,
Of the hearts and minds of the terraces of old England.
And there you sit in the middle of the bus,
(This Happy Breed – Could be going to Clapham)
Middle aged and middle class, looking forward to getting back home,
And remembering your earlier chat with your mum,
Out there by the old bomb shelter,
Talking of Empire Day back in the 1920’s,
Where she suddenly broke
Into spontaneous and half remembered school girl song,
“ It’s up to the days of Old England,
The land of the brave and the true,
In lands far away
They are calling today
Three cheers for the red, white and blue.”
“But they’re not any more, are they?” she said,
“All the old ways have gone.”
Well they haven’t quite I thought,
How else could she forget my sister’s telephone number,
And try to dial her husband’s World War 2 army number instead?
And some of these old ways I revere
And some of these old ways make me weep,
And some of them are followed,
But not, I hope, in my name.
So how, once more,
Do I reclaim that flag?
That flag that’s hanging out the soldier boys’ windows,
(Not that I’ve anything against the soldiers)
Reclaim it for and in my name,
Reclaim it from the sun shone plankton,
Reclaim it from a TV war game mind set
Where Victory is axiomatically self-justifying,
Reclaim it for all the values and traditions that I hold dear,
Reclaim it so I can regard that flag with pride,
Rather than with an ambivalent embarrassment –

2 Leave a comment on verse 2 0 Only through participation,
Only through pitching in,
Only through demonstrating, discussing and challenging,
Only through demonstrating, discussing and challenging,
And opposing any uncomfortable status quo;
Because if you turn your back
On the life of an active citizen,
If you turn your back on action,
If you countenance apathy, cynicism and self-exclusion,
Then that cross and that Jack
Will always be one eyed,
And you will always feel ambivalent about your country
And your birthright,
And you’ll never be able to say,
“My country right or wrong”
Or “Not in my name”;
So let’s remember,
It’s our England too –
Participate, Agitate, Organise, Unionise,
Subvert, invert –
Only connect, but usurp;
For it’s our cross to bear.

Source: https://footballpoets.org/poems/in-my-name/