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Carol Ann Duffy, Poet Laureate
  • Written to mark the death of the last British soldier to fight in WW1
  • Read by the author on the BBC Radio 4, 30 July 2009
  • In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
  • He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
  • If poetry could tell it backwards, true, begin
  • that moment shrapnel scythed you to the stinking mudů
  • but you get up, amazed, watch bled bad blood
  • run upwards from the slime into its wounds;
  • see lines and lines of British boys rewind
  • back to their trenches, kiss the photographs from home-
  • mothers, sweethearts, sisters, younger brothers
  • not entering the story now
  • to die and die and die.
  • Dulce- No- Decorum- No- Pro patria mori.
  • You walk away.
  • You walk away; drop your gun (fixed bayonet)
  • like all your mates do too-
  • Harry, Tommy, Wilfred, Edward, Bert-
  • and light a cigarette.
  • There's coffee in the square,
  • warm French bread
  • and all those thousands dead
  • are shaking dried mud from their hair
  • and queuing up for home. Freshly alive,
  • a lad plays Tipperary to the crowd, released
  • from History; the glistening, healthy horses fit for heroes, kings.
  • You lean against a wall,
  • your several million lives still possible
  • and crammed with love, work, children, talent, English beer, good food.
  • You see the poet tuck away his pocket-book and smile.
  • If poetry could truly tell it backwards,
  • then it would.
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