Taking the Shine Off

by Peter Wyton

Dusting the medals down. First, Long Service
And Good Conduct, traditionally referred to
As ‘The undiscovered crime award.’
Next, war gongs: British, unassuming,
Sandy ribboned. Saudi, ostentatious
In its cushioned case. Kuwaiti, 4th class tat.
A prial memorialising several weeks
Of concentrated conflict, exhausting
In its fashion, yet, at least in my case,
Scarcely fraught with serious discomfort.

Father-in-law’s more worthwhile decorations
Mock gently from his widow’s tidy dresser.
He marched from Cairo to North Italy
For one more bauble than this clutch I polish,
Came home and kept his trap shut,
Buried bad memories as he planted fruit trees,
With neither fuss nor flourish.
Not a reunion man. Caroused with no old comrades.
Never slow-marched across the Albert Hall,
Beneath the Legion standards and the poppies.

His medals outshine mine. His six year stint
Eclipses my three decades under arms.
A better man than me, or, come to think of it,
My sire who, having triggered my existence,
Heard the responding fusillade of consequence,
Ducked from the firing line, deserted.


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