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Herbert Lomas, from A Casual Knack of Living: Collected Poems

Soldiers

My Uncle Albert lied about his age,
joined up at sixteen, became a sergeant,

received a secret wound
and never had children.

Uncle Wilf was an infantry officer,
but didn't get picked off.

He still had his officer's pistol,
which weighed a ton when I played with Jack,

and the hammer would have
taken your thumb off.

My father was a stretcher-bearer.
Dad led the guffawing, the teasing,

leg-pulling his brothers and rivals
with lots to say and ways of saying it,

but though he met my Uncles Albert and Herbert,
by accident, near the Somme,

this was the only thing
they ever said about the war.