Carol Ann Duffy

Last Post

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 mud…
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 write it backwards,
then it would.

Inscription found in a fragment of the Great Wall of China

1) The Three Good Things
a) Certainty held in Reserve.
b) Unexpected Praise from and Artist.
c) Discovery of Nobility in Oneself.

2) The Three Bad Things
a) Unworthiness crowned.
b) Unconscious Infraction of the the Laws of Behaviour.
c) Friendly Condescension of the Imperfectly Educated.

3) The Three Things of both Good and Bad Effect
a) Triumphant Anger.
b) Banquets of the Rich.
c) Honour preserved.

C S Lewis

If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is not part of the Christian faith.

Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak.

We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

W H Auden

The poet who writes “free” verse is like Robinson Crusoe on his desert island: he must do all his cooking, laundry and darning for himself. In a few exceptional cases, this manly independence produces something original and impressive, but more often the result is squalor – dirty sheets on the unmade bed and empty bottles on the unswept floor.

Clive James

When we were kids we fought in the mock battle
With Ned Kelly cap guns and we opened the cold bottle
Of Shelley’s lemonade with a Scout belt buckle.
We cracked the passion fruit and sipped the honeysuckle.

When we were kids we lit the Thundercracker
Under the fruit tin and we sucked the all day sucker.
We opened the shoe box to watch the silk-worms spinning
Cocoons of cirrus with oriental cunning.

When we were kids we were sun-burned to a frazzle.
The beach was a griddle, you could hear us spit and sizzle.
We slept face down when our backs came out in blisters.
Teachers were famous for throwing blackboard dusters.

When we were kids we dive-bombed from the tower.
We floated in the inner tube, we bowled the rubber tyre.
From torn balloons we blew the cherry bubble.
Blowing up Frenchies could get you into trouble.

When we were kids we played at cock-a-lorum.
Gutter to gutter the boys ran harum-scarum.
The girls ran slower and their arms and legs looked funny.
You weren’t supposed to drink your school milk in the dunny.

When we were kids the licorice came in cables.
We traded Hubba-Hubba bubblegum for marbles.
A new connie-agate was a flower trapped in crystal
Worth just one go with a genuine air pistol.

When we were kids we threw the cigarette cards
Against the wall and we lined the Grenadier Guards
Up on the carpet and you couldn’t touch the trifle
Your Aunt Marge made to go in the church raffle.

When we were kids we hunted the cicada.
The pet cockatoo bit like a barracuda.
We were secret agents and fluent in pig Latin.
Gutsing on mulberries made our lips shine like black satin.

When we were kids we caught the Christmas beetle.
Its brittle wings were gold-green like the wattle.
Our mothers made bouquets from frangipani.
Hard to pronounce, a pink musk-stick cost a penny.

When we were kids we climbed peppercorns and willows.
We startled the stingrays when we waded in the shallows.
We mined the sand dunes in search of buried treasure,
And all this news pleased our parents beyond measure.

When we were kids the pus would wet the needle
When you dug out splinters and a piss was called a piddle.
The scabs on your knees would itch when they were ready
To be picked off your self-renewing body.

When we were kids a year would last forever.
Then we grew up and were told it was all over.
Now we are old and the memories returning
Are like the last stars that fade before the morning.