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Tony Grist

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Passing Out Parade At Glencorse [Jun. 20th, 2010|06:47 pm]
Tony Grist
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.


[User Picture]From: ideealisme
2010-06-20 06:14 pm (UTC)
"was"....? I hope nothing happened to him in battle :(

I love the first and last verses.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-06-20 06:21 pm (UTC)

No, he came through intact- and was given an honourable discharge for medical reasons.
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[User Picture]From: ideealisme
2010-06-20 06:29 pm (UTC)
glad to hear it.

Have you read "Goodbye to All That" - Graves talks a lot about his regimental colours there. As well as seeing everyone around him getting murdered by the war machine.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-06-20 06:44 pm (UTC)
I have read it, but a very long time ago.

I'm a big admirer of Graves's poetry.
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[User Picture]From: sovay
2010-06-20 06:41 pm (UTC)
Everything dun and grey except
At St Mary’s Loch where the ranked waves glitter.

Thank you for sharing this.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-06-20 06:46 pm (UTC)
I'd been talking about soldiers...and this is my soldier poem.
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[User Picture]From: wemyss
2010-06-20 08:53 pm (UTC)


And if you like, there's a place for you at http://community.livejournal.com/verse_albion/profile
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-06-20 09:20 pm (UTC)

Re: Brilliant.

Thank you.

I've joined.
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[User Picture]From: wemyss
2010-06-20 09:23 pm (UTC)

And welcome you are.

Post away, dear boy.
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[User Picture]From: endlessrarities
2010-06-21 06:45 pm (UTC)
Lovely poem, and strangely appropriate, since I've just been watching the Chennel 4 news report on Afghanistan.

300. The magic number, as far as the Spartans (and I suppose the Thebans, and the Boetians) were concerned. I hope your son made it back okay - one of my father's students was a Shi-ite Muslim from Basra, and during the run-up to the 1st invasion of Iraq, he wasn't sure if his parents were alive or dead after Saddam's atrocities...

It's a sobering thought.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-06-22 07:48 am (UTC)

I see Cameron was talking over the weekend about how we're paying too high a price and need to be looking to get out.

My son did his tour of duty and got out alive- but the experience soured him on the army- and he got himself discharged shortly afterwards.
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[User Picture]From: endlessrarities
2010-06-22 05:40 pm (UTC)
Sensible lad! It's a noble calling and all that, but I don't subscribe to the Spartan POV of 'with shield or upon it'. Seeing that solemn parade repeating itself ad inifitum through Wootten Basset makes you realise just how many times this scenario has played itself out throughout the millenia... Different cultures, different technologies, but the pain for those left behind hasn't changed much at all, I'm sure. I bet the Spartans just put a brave face on it.
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From: jorrocks_j
2010-06-22 01:02 am (UTC)
Don't let us get sick
Don't let us get old
Don't let us get stupid, all right?
Just make us be brave
And make us play nice
And let us be together tonight

The sky was on fire
When I walked to the mill
To take up the slack in the line
I thought of my friends
And the troubles they've had
To keep me from thinking of mine.

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-06-22 07:52 am (UTC)
Thanks. That's a beautiful song.
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