Endless White Lines

What we know not now
We shall know after
says the inscription on the tomb
of 1760 Irish Rifleman, Hugh Catherwood
He died in Wimereux
4 August 1917 alongside
Darling Ted, 10035
Private E Elliot of the 3rd Hussars
As I side-step the endless
straight white line
I whisper the written words that hold
the heft and bear the weight of your lives

You, 43704 A G Botting Of the Royal Field Artillery Who fought the Good Fight You, Lt F. T.L. Abbiss who
Cheerfully gave up your life
You, 1859 R.H. Dobinson Of the Yorkshire Regiment
Remembered by your wife
brother, sister and five children

After a while, the white line curdles
Into a curl and my stomach
rises to splay its wares
At the back of my throat
My eyes sting and hurt but
not from gas or trench warfare.

Here lie three thousand white tombs from Yorkshire, Wales,
the Scottish Border, Ireland,
Australia, Montreal, Saskatchewan
Too many young men to mention

Like you, 3633 Private J Bloomer
Of the Black Watch

And You, 9599 G.H. Aldridge Of The Queen’s Artillery
whose family prayer that
Peace her sway extend
And Britain’s power depend
On war no more

Bore no fruit

And, yes, you, 12365 Walter Lawrence Pratt
Of The King’s Liverpool.

Kate Ennals, from Cavan, is a board member of Irish PEN/PEN na h-Éireann. Her poetry collections At the Edge and Threads were published by Lapwing. Her latest collection Elsewhere can be purchased here.  Another collection. Practically a Wake, is due to be published in Spring 2023.


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