Unknown Warrior – Westminster Abbey

Un-named he serves on still. Although he lies
where medieval light leans in, he ties
our minds to one brief butchery, to four
short, cauterizing years, a war
distinctly his, unique, a searing shared
with others, elsewhere, crossed and numbered or
anonymous as he is here. And all
those other others, those who waited and,
with time left empty, went on waiting. Time
that bleakened into futures. Those
who saw the silent side of glory – lives
lived round the fringes of their families, wives
to be, or were – two holocausts ago.

Lived on with unchanged names on rosters. Tea
and vicarage. In evenings keys
to doors that opened into neatness. Days
with chalk and children – busy in their way,
but then there always were the evenings. Years
of bringing gifts to christenings – cards to send
on unforgotten birthdays, only theirs
would pass by cardless sometimes – customs change.
Refined retirement first, near piers and then
bed-sittered for a while, then nursing-homed
and things receding. Finally a bell
and telegram “Aunt Ellen’s gone – last night – who must we
tell?”
At least, for what it’s worth, their names were known

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