Compression

By Ian C. Webb

Artwork by Alli Rowe


 

1. Decompression

on the Sovereign Territory’s beach on the med
you unclenched your platoon’s knuckle tattoos
Trooped into Brize

to Pie-Eater’s-Pier-now-the-Orwell-Boutique
sang yourself across zebra stripes
on that birthday’s eve
stark-naked between
Belisha Beacon’s egg-yolk pulse

 

2. P.T.S.D.

your grandfather’s uncle: the R.S.M.’s corporal:
was too far gone
bumping his guns
cartridges spent
was too far at home

discharged with dishonour
from his fortified realm

back home to the hooves of the ugliest faces
marching past ranks of Lancashire brick
(soil the shade of Helmand’s gold)
nostrils flared at the slaughterers’s yard

 

3. Northern Soul

on the floor of the ‘Empress’
at the final all-night
all refused after three of the ‘Three Before Eight’
to depart the ‘Backdrop’ ‘Spin’ and ‘Kick’

left to the last
of the smoke of the stacks

your father decided
on Catterick Barracks

 

4. B.F.P.O

your birth was announced from Bielefeld Camp
the photographs sent
from the gleam of the paint
on Britannia’s red box
on Her Majesty’s Street
between Wives’ and Thrift and fish and chips

 

5. Memorial

the digital screen at the gate of the base
flashed your name the time and place
your sister and I on duty-free
in the shelter beside the civilian Mess:
“its all gravy” she said you always said
and I a cog became a wheel
a mandarin’s face behind Whitehall’s desk
her eyes were shrill
I played the part
I tried to console
I still can’t believe that word I said

after the service
the refusal to speak
the cup in her hand untouched by her lips
the glare to the brim
of the depths of her hate


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