We Go To War

By Michael Pritchard, with commentary from Jess Phillips

I was given this photo of my granddad
before he went to the western front.
He stands in a sepia world,
threads of history about him.
Polished boots, woollen socks
a thick and itchy horsehair coat:
his scalp shorn like a spring sheep.

He looks beyond the camera
to where the war might be –
to where grief lives in hungry mud.
Holds a no-sniff demeanour,
a brave dogface, unknowingness
untroubling his forward eyes.

When I look at him,
the war is hard to imagine.
The horror, the real horror,
the things they never tell you.
But in his soap fresh face
a hundred years old
I find a common trait:
I see the horror of hope,
horror where there was none,
in the place it was to conquer.

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