My paternal grandfather Chandos died in June 1940 of the wounds he received at the Siege of Calais. Herewith a few sheepish thoughts about a man I never knew.
To understand from whence I came,
I’ve said I’ll look into some papers
and some ancient clippings from The Times
as yellow-grey and dry as bones.
I finger through the pale blue letters sent
from farms in Gloucestershire and Kent:
the hardened stance of all of us in this together
who’ve lost a brother, lover, friend.
But then a sprig of chestnut hair, as little as a fishing fly,
that Chandos Hoskyns clipped, intended for a locket
should he fall, now twisting in between
my forefinger and thumb.
And further on I fall upon
the letter that my father John wrote home at 12
from school in Scarborough, begging Mother
to “cheer up” and not to be “too awfully sad”.
And now I’m spruced and suited in the Calais sun,
a hundred yards from where the C.O. fell,
a wreath clutched in my hands, and ready here
to lay it with the other rings.
I’m thinking what my grandfather would make of me –
this milksop pseudo-intellectual who cannot glorify
the wars of fools, yet here must halt
to mark the life he sacrificed.
We will remember them
and then we’ll return across the sea.
We may be home in time for tea.