Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Passing Out Parade At Glencorse

My youngest son was a soldier. This is the poem I wrote after his passing out parade. At the time I was a little worried about him having to serve in South Armagh. Happily, he escaped that posting. They sent him to Basra instead.



37 men plus marching band

Look pretty small on that vast parade ground.

Using a telephoto lens

I try to reach out and get to them

But ritual puts up plate-glass shields

I cannot pass. My son looks pale,

With shadows pooling under the cheek-bones.

Later he says he had his cap

Jammed on too tight and it stopped the blood flow.



                   The full dress uniform

Has scarcely changed since the First World War.

The Scots wear kilts or tartan trews

And bonnets, while the Lancashires

Have a hat band red as a red, red rose

Which signifies loyalty to the Queen,

Their Duke. Their Dux.


                    Some officers

Stroll through the ranks and talk to them

My son is smiling.


                             Presenting arms

Is the greatest compliment they can give

(Or so says an arrogant voice on the tannoy)

And when they do it (but not to us)

We rise from our seats and stand for them.


Then off they go at a stiff clip

Back to their barracks to grow back into

Their private selves before they’re loosed

To us relatives. As they pass from view

The bandsmen of the Black Watch,

Their sashes streaming like widows’ wear,

Play "Scotland the Brave".


                                      It’s Catterick next

Then Canada, then South Armagh.


Driving him home, its mostly hills

From Edinburgh to Lancaster.

Smooth bare hills and very few people,

Everything dun and grey except

At St Mary’s Loch where the ranked waves glitter.

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