World of Words: Remembrance provides inspiration for the poem of the week

Remembrance, by Lyn Jennings

Don’t ask me to remember,

don’t make me remember

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the thud and crunch of bombs

falling in a street near ours,

my father cradling me in his arms

pacing up and down in

the frightening blackout dark

trying to cover the sounds

with his tuneless whistling.

Don’t embarrass me with

memories of myself at four years old

asking an American soldier for chewing gum

and he smiling down at me

and giving me, not only silky strips of gum,

but his little khaki sewing kit

with its silver scissors, needles

and spools of cotton thread.

I’m ashamed when I remember

sticking my tongue out at the evacuees

because my mother said

they gave us nits and impetigo.

I don’t want to remember

that time on a beach in St Ives

when enemy planes

emptied their arsenal of bullets

through the canvas huts

and the children playing in the sea,

my mother hid me just in time

between the café and the cliffs.

Don’t remind me of the

terror of being buried alive

in the ruins of our bombed house,

and the cousins next door

who were killed.

I can remember the telegraph boy’s bike

with its merrily jingling bell,

bringing anything but joy,

just a knock – silence – then

a scream fit to curdle milk,

I can still see those sad faced women

in skimpy black coats

and people crossing the road to avoid them

don’t bring to my grown-up mind,

young women with painted red smiles,

flaunting their cheap engagement rings,

dreaming of Cadillacs, ranches and riches

“When I marry Elmer.”

then being left on their own

with bulging bellies,

bawling babies,

grief, shame

and no place to go.

I try not to remember

the grim-faced grandpa

who never smiled and rarely talked to us,

but who wailed like a banshee in the night

at the ‘magic lantern’ show inside his head,

of broken bodies in a sodden trench and

his best friend’s blood on his hands and face.

I don’t need the image

of poppy petals falling

on the shoulders of the too-young-to-die,

or the teenager walking tall

with his dead father’s medals on his chest.

The young widow staring straight ahead

two small children clutching her hands.

I don’t need solemn parades of

uniformed men and women

and old soldiers marching with

a dignity that breaks the heart,

I don’t need muffled drum beats

or the plaintive pleas of Last Post

to make me remember,

How could I ever forget?