I married a barrack-born man,
who knew nothing of fields fit
for birthing anything but bodies,
flinched from my father’s forge,
smelt plough metal as bullets,
felt a scythe’s edge as bayonet.
I married a soldier who makes
war with fife and drum. Strikes up
battle as easily as roll call, march
or parade. Holds victory or defeat
in the curled bass clefs of his palms,
his steady musician’s hands.
I married a man men only know
is living because I tell them so.
Who breathes solely in the confines
of my yard, walks like a shade
through every other season, more
story than father to our children.
I married a war song of my own
making, I am not ready to end it yet.
Advancing evening lit the distant rise,
as up the causeway scuffing broken earth
came home the herds, infested still with flies
with stick to rump swinging an ample girth,
the lads in smock and crumpled velveteen
swelling and showing off for all their worth
before the girls that ganged about the green.
The old Ship Inn lights up an oil lamp.
and Mary, captured by a mock attack,
screams for a Wellington to aid the camp.
So jug by jug is fetched down from the rack,
to meet the workmen coming from the field,
who wearily unwind the aching back
and slake their thirst until the cravings yield.
Pleasant indeed those late remains of day,
the last warmth striking on the hatless head
the shadows creep and still the children play;
then time for horses, corn and price of bread,
reform or revolution in the wings
“or in the lap of God” the Ranter said
“mark how those new machines are devilish things.”
So home at last along the river’s brink,
passing a women weaving in the dusk
her wastrel husband prodigal with drink
had left a helpless beauty in a husk
once handsome – Mary goes to pay respects
and how the fingers ferret at their task
an hopeless nod is all the thanks she gets.
“Chose badly Mary! – always double check
as china cup can harbour bitter dreg
and many a sail’s ended up a wreck;
he turned her head by looks and sturdy leg –
– your father may have ways I don’t approve
some faults can be ignored, but other’s beg
for common sense to balance weaning love.”