by Jane Weir
Three days before Armistice Sunday
and poppies had already been placed
on individual war graves. Before you left,
I pinned one onto your lapel, crimped petals,
spasms of paper red, disrupting a blockade
of yellow bias binding around your blazer.
Sellotape bandaged around my hand,
I rounded up as many white cat hairs
as I could, smoothed down your shirt's
upturned collar, steeled the softening
of my face. I wanted to graze my nose
across the tip of your nose, play at
being Eskimos like we did when
you were little. I resisted the impulse
to run my fingers through the gelled
blackthorns of your hair. All my words
flattened, rolled, turned into felt,
slowly melting. I was brave, as I walked
with you, to the front door, threw
it open, the world overflowing
like a treasure chest. A split second
and you were away, intoxicated.
After you'd gone I went into your bedroom,
released a song bird from its cage.
Later a single dove flew from the pear tree,
and this is where it has led me,
skirting the church yard walls, my stomach busy
making tucks, darts, pleats, hat-less, without
a winter coat or reinforcements of scarf, gloves.
On reaching the top of the hill I traced
the inscriptions on the war memorial,
leaned against it like a wishbone.
The dove pulled freely against the sky,
an ornamental stitch. I listened, hoping to hear
your playground voice catching on the wind.
'Poppies' is one of the poems in Jane Weir's collection, The Way I Dressed
During the Revolution, which is available post free from the Templar
Poetry website: click here
'Poppies' was one of the poems commissioned by Carol Ann Duffy who
invited modern poets to offer a war poem for 'Exit Wounds', published in
the Guardian at the beginning of the Iraq Inquiry in July 2009.
'Poppies' is also published in the AQA Digital Literature anthology for
GCSE English, in the Conflict cluster, in The Royal British Legion
2010/2011 CD ROM for Schools and Young People Teaching and
Learning resource for Key Stages 1-4 and in several GCSE Teaching and
Learning texts including York Notes and CGP Revision Guides. There is
also a live reading of the poem by Jane Weir on the Teachit website and
Poppies is read by Joanna Lumley on the 2010 Royal British Legion CD
We Will Remember Them which helped raise funds for the 2010 Poppy
If you wish to link with the AQA GCSE Digital Anthology and find a
copy of this poem and other poetry in the anthology click on this link
by Luca Brancati -
Jane Weir talks
about where and
came to be written