2011 Winner: The Marjorie Waters Cup for Poetry – Debra Westlake

UNFINISHED – (The Churston Twelve) by Debra Westlake

Was it a day like this day,

A plain day

When the pewter sea is still

As remembering,

When sea mist shrouds the common,

A reluctant sun

Shrugs off a fist of cloud, burns
Sodium yellow?

Was it a day like this day,

The bracken crisped,

The bramble blackened on the branch

And hawthorn bare;

When a lone seagull forgets

That he can fly

And indignant cattle bellow

Of their loss?

Did the twelve boys of Churston,

Named on our cross,

Weep for their stark brothers

Of Flanders field,

Stripped of every pock-marked leaf,

Whose sentinel shadows

Of branch and twig

Laid bare?

Did they long for the twisty path

Down to our cove,

Thick with mouldering leaves,

Roots deep in blood

Red soil, fecund with the falling,

Where their names were carved

With shaky hearts

On trunks?

As the shrill-screech lark called across

That troubled earth,

Did they mourn the hungry finch,

The singing thrush

And the insolent robin,

Who insist on life;

Who know no more

Than that?