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25 February 2019Poem for Armistice Day 2018

We were sent a poem written by someone who visited Happy Valley on 11 November 2018 and have their permission to publish it anonymously:

11 November, 2018, Orkney

sit on a stone seat made by Frances

rest your arms on her spiral carvings

while you listen to the stream, quietly ecstatic

in stereoscopic parallel harmonies

flowing at your feet, from left to right

look through and above to trees

deflecting the blinding, long-shadow-casting sun

 

there are song shadows in the glistening grass

 

approach the abandoned dwelling

whose owner left his home to us

in a landscape of wind and stone

it has become Happy Valley

 

part of its roof is wildly turfed

part is solidly flagged in the island style

stepped and sealed it will survive another hundred years

enough to see out a few more wars, or perhaps just one

 

among the fallen and stacked branches

the remains of stone cists, an ornamented bridge

that leads to fields beyond where sheep wander

unconcerned at this day

 

how strange are our numbers

our time demarcated with myriad battle names

each with their designs and stratagems

their beginnings and ends, their filthy litter

 

1918: in the shell-shocked earth a soldier celebrates

the disappearing thunder

at eleven in the morning he is chasing

Swallowtails and Camberwell Beauties

picking larkspur and lilies of the valley

to press between the leaves of his memories

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