30 June 2020

Poem of the Week: 'The Big Guns', by Robert Selby

Posted by the Bookshop

Robert Selby's debut collection, The Coming-Down Time, has just been published by Shoestring Press. This is the eleventh poem from the book's long sequence about Selby's late grandfather, 'East of Ipswich'.

The Big Guns

Memories, like poppies, are stirred by trauma.
At Doll’s funeral reception, fragile
red flowers bloomed in a once sunless bed.
The room fell hushed to what he said.

We knew he’d seen action across Europe
after D-Day with the Royal Artillery,
but now were told an enemy gun,
emplaced in a church, was neutralised,

leaving no church. Offered bombardier,
he turned it down to remain one of the lads.
Demobbed, he stowed his Enfield in the attic:
you can take the boy out of the country…

Then came a sixty-year, losing battle
with leg ulcers caused by working on
his big gun. Eligible for recompense,
he filed for nothing,

only from God the narrow peace in which
to see his children and grandchildren grow up,
like miracle marrows to flaunt
at the County Show, however flawed.