The Badgers of Slad

The paintings of badgers on the posts at Slad,
Are beguiling and deceptive in their art,
Seemingly comic and anthropomorphic,
Each one contributes to a tragic tale,
Summarised in that curt and cruel word: cull.
They look like Tommies facing execution,
Tied to their posts at dawn’s first red-streaked light:
What passing-bells for those who die for cattle?

‘Only the monstrous anger of the guns,
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle.’

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Songs of Christmas Past

One damp, December afternoon, I biked out through Stroud’s featureless streets, Out along the Slad Valley to Bull’s Cross: Past pollarded willow trees all along the road, Past well wrapped farmers stacking logs in a dripping coppice, Past chapels turned to...

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Christmas 1914

Christmas 1914 There was, of course, more than one football match In the long line of unofficial truces That stretched all along the front in Flanders; Indeed, the matches themselves were a sort of climax, Punctuating the peace that started before Christmas With...

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Refugees and Remembrance

The November twilight ebbs away It is the same old ludic Time as ever. But a dead thing is grasped by my hand, A queer sardonic bi-valve – I pull it from the common’s rough track To place in my museum at home. Droll fossil, what on earth can you know Of national...

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July 14th 1915

My mother was born on Bastille Day, July 14th, 1915; Her mum and dad had met at church, In the choir of St John the Baptist and St Helen, Up on Church Hill, Wroughton, Just below the ridgeway, high above Swindon. I never met my grand-father, he died before my birth, A...

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