Ian Stephenson

The kettle steams and shrieks and boils
like dust flying up in times of toil
an old man sits across from me
his hands cupped round a mug of tea
A tear is forming in his eye
“I’ve never spoke of this, y’see”
he said, and wrote it down for me
to share his story now

A paddle steamer brought me in
a rusted pile of steel and tin
the trenches here would hold the key
they hadn’t bothered training me
That fetid dyke in Northern France
No chance to sleep or laugh or dance
the lack of sleep would take it’s toll
sat rotting in that hole

There’s one thing that I shan’t forget
the memory’s still raw and wet
concerning a young tommy lad
– a shell would hit him pretty bad
just feet away was where I stood
awash with sand and dust and blood
although we had done all we could
it took his face clean off

You young men wouldn’t understand
the pointless deaths by our fair hands
we did believe we could be great
and fought for country, king and state
but we knew men who wouldn’t go
they threw them all in jail, y’know
those stupid cowardly so-and-sos
who’s story wouldn’t tell

There’s still one voice that haunts me now
the bellow of our captain’s crow:
No turning back, we will stand tall
and buckle down and give our all
and venture forth to no-mans-land
to suffer death at Jerry’s hand
I’m staring at my wedding band
I haven’t got the gall.

My service wouldn’t last that long
The damp and cold had done me wrong
the rotted ground and rats and soot
had made a mess of my left (poor?) foot
When fifteen years or so had passed
I met some tommy boys at last
we raised the flag high on the mast
but didn’t have much to say

And so, young man, we’ll leave it there,
it’s nice to know that someone cares
it’s nice of you to make the tea
the writing kind of sets me free
An old man sits across from me
“I’ve never spoke of this y’see”
he said, and wrote it down for me
to share his story now