Today, to mark Armistice Day, our Friday Poem is one of remembrance and silence from John Tripp’s Selected Poems.
A well known and popular figure on the poetry scene, John Tripp’s untimely death in 1986 meant the loss of a ’devoted and passionate poet’, as John Ormond calls him in the Introduction to this book. Pithy, regretful, bitter, angry, at times tender, John Tripp’s poetry was always engaged with the issues which most mattered to him.
Selected Poems draws on all John Tripp’s books, together with work published since the last of those collections, Passing Through (1984), and previously unpublished poems.
Armistice Day ’77, Honiton
The two minutes’ silence was cut to one
that November day; it was a busy world.
By chance, on my way to a gig
I walked into a ceremony of six
in the rain: crosses in a ring, and the poppies soaked.
Down two sides of the slab were names
linked to this piece of England – the sound
of country stock grown old in duty
and the acceptance of pointless loss.
Names going back to Minden and before.
(Were these the only ones left
to remember their dead?
Already sixty seconds were lopped
off any dignity. Would their children
forget, as I had forgotten?)
No more came. On some other day
I might have felt an interloper
marring their ritual. At eleven o’clock
the men took off their hats
and we all bowed our heads.
A minute in the rain in a country town
may whisper the whole grief of history.
Picture a knot of seven around that block,
the red wet poppies, and just for a moment
a complete and utter silence in the world.