Michael Longley on Remembrance Day
My dad served with Ronald Colman in the Great War
And laughed at his daydream of Hollywood stardom.
London-Scottish kilts looked frumpish after battle,
Blood, mud and shit bespattering handsome knees.
My dad lost all his teeth before he was twenty
And envied Ronald Colman’s spectacular smile.
He watched him trimming his moustache in cold tea
At a cracked mirror, a thin black line his trademark.
Wounded at Messines – shrapnel in his ankle –
He tried in his films to cover up his limp – Beau
Geste, Lost Horizon – my dad would go to see them all.
Did he share a last Woodbine with Ronald Colman
Standing on the firestep, about to go their separate
Ways, over the top, into No Man’s Land, and fame?
Second Lieutenant Tooke
I should have commemorated before now
Second Lieutenant Tooke who helped my dad
Rescue Nurse Moussett of the French Red Cross
At Paris Plage in June nineteen-seventeen.
He was swept away by currents and drowned.
My life-saving dad just made it to the shore.
Not once did he mention the unlucky Tooke.
This was a breather before Passchendaele.