I’m the proud heart wheeled out at remembrance.
The old campaigner who knows life is tough.
Until his spent lungs whisper, “Enough!”
And he hears the last charge of the ambulance.
I’m a boy killed when a building collapsed,
Held by his mother: wracked with despair,
Crouched in the gutter, stroking his hair;
Beside a dead nurse, who rushed in too fast!
I am a drone that kills with precision,
Camera locked for a pre-emptive strike.
Warning! Thirty children, out on a hike.
Too late! The pilot has made the decision.
I volunteered, to avert disaster.
I’m a conscript, numbed by the violence.
A stressed veteran, suffering in silence.
Shafted by his political master.
I’m the beloved homeland, laid waste by war,
The corrupt official’s avaricious claw;
The neglected teenager flouting the law;
Protest singers, chanting, “What’s it all for!”
I’m the peace marcher, soaked in the rain.
I am the perpetrator, spreading my lies.
I’m the hapless bystander, who always dies.
I am the statesman, saying “Never again!”
I’m the town under constant bombardment.
I’m the family trapped in their basement.
I am the looter free to steal… or rape for entertainment.
The exhausted doctor, without drugs… practising containment.
I’m the refugee rotting, in a temporary camp.
I’m the orphan without any life-chances or hope
Trying to avoid the gangsters selling dodgy dope.
Catching tuberculosis, from the cold and damp.
I’m the campaign medal, found by Aunt Mabel.
I’m the red poppy, worn in the lapel.
I’m for peace, with the white one as well.
I’m the empty place, still set at the table.
I’m the cadet, weeping at church parade;
Dad’s telegram lying open in the hall;
Empty photo frame smashed against the wall;
Fingering the pin of a hand grenade.
I’m the guardsman’s slow-marching grey-coat,
Passing the Cenotaph: stoic old ghost.
I am the bugle sounding ‘The Last Post’.
I am the unbearable, lingering last-note.
M R McBride