For Remembrance: On Seeing A Photograph

You were young men in the Guards
treading water in wretched trenches
swinging kitbags and rifles and broad silly grins

so young
that two billion volumes single-spaced wouldn’t be enough
to list all of life’s treasures
you haven’t experienced yet
and still you would die
right then
right there
doing right
or so you thought
as you lay where
no-one could tell where
mud ended and blood began

three and four generations removed,
we lay wreathes for your wraiths
on a hollow day in November
while the parades and the poppies
hallucinate
an annual landscape of memory

profound today, gone tomorrow

and for three or four days the flowers fade
and the greenery browns at your memorials
and then the work crews come

young men and women with guarded futures
treading water at minimum wage
swinging brooms and shovels and black plastic bags

and when the work trucks leave
your memory has turned once again
to cold undecorated stone
and nothing can ever change
the fact
that you died before you started living.

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