In Fair Calais

Your imaginations befooled! Many tales that are told,

decry the actions of men, in times now growing cold –

like corpses – but listen, don’t let me get started –

pray, let me tell-on, while I still have the heart …

–    *    –

Yes, they fought upon the beaches and battled, hard, on

and on – all the more – until smoke-blacked the sun

bitter-hard did they scramble for a toe-hold, but where

the landing-ground sands beckoned, cruelly, so bare

to the crackle of machine-gun fire, deadly whizz-bang and scream

of munitions that landing – oh – such sights should ne’er be seen!

Neither seen nor ever forgotten – give me a minute – I’ll go on

and tell of their finest hour with so many men gone.

Gone, that is, to battle bravely, their country’s last resort

it was for their freedom – and ours – that was this battle was fought.

–    *    –

Where men determine to run forwards, although possessed to flee

from sights and sounds despairing, such no man should ever see.

They fought again – and all the more – for it cannot ever be said,

quite enough, how hard the battle – nor how many men were bled,

pouring ashore from the flotsam: a disperate, deperate fleet

so many men fell early – without even land at their feet,

or fell to lie still upon the beach as was foretold in their runes,

while those that remained tarried forwards to climb bravely the dunes.

–    *    –

A drink to your health, men, as you drank to your taste

the salt of the sea, in the bloody death of your haste!

–    *    –

They went on to fight in the fields and the streets

was it demons – or gods – or just man they would meet?

On-again, on-again, as that wise tongue had spilled,

never ever surrendering, they fought in the hills.

Shoulder to shoulder, man with man and nation stand

with nation, whilst the foes’ armies, played-each, tricks underhand

and season passed season from fair to foul and on to year

yet still, met again bravely, each facing their fear

and some met their god, without comfort, but to lie forever cold

mud and blood mixed, their generation lost to the old.

–    *    –

Sons were now gone – but they were fathers to some

would children ever be old enough to understand – who would now come?

Oh, the young, the young – so innocent! And in swelling-numbers great,

carry forwards – Onwards! with what bravado – but ignorant of fate

and the younger and younger came, did they not wonder where

were those that had come before hand – oh where were their cares?

Oh they lay, with stares empty – and the few that saw any –

peace were the dead whose numbers, growing, grew into many

swelled each day, day-upon-day without finding end or respite

those that followed on, followed on – forwards men – to fight!

–    *    –

Yea, the brave words that, so stirring, were, well-said afore,

almost told in advance of your deaths on those shores

unavoidably perhaps for fear of what there was could be lost

but was any count ever given to the ultimate cost?

–    *    –

Oh true – all did their duty – with nothing neglected

and complete disregard to life and fate, though many suspected

you defended our island – you went on right to the end

you never surrendered … and now shall never surrend!

–    *    –

To the utmost of your strength and whatever the cost

whatever may be was made-become – mud, blood and dust!

And some come from the far off lands, where skies knew only sun:

came north to meet the dark clouds – and the thunder-of-guns

Now they’re all laid down together, under carved Arabic scribe:

adjacent Billy, Bob and Nameless, under green sod, leaden skies

in the serried ranks of those, the many, who gave their lives is said

in a simple stone engraving:  – ‘known only unto to God’

–    *    –

Oh you think this tale is fiction? Read the tears below my eyes

and ask my young children what they saw, that day in far-off, fair Calais?

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