Where recollections end,
step finally from the land
and into the white before like the masked birdman,
a boy is bound to appear:
growing, hurrying here
over the hot dry grass towards his grandad.
He, who fought on the Somme,
wanted to see the same
storm damage, down the road on a meadow,
as did this boy of five.
The sky all blue above.
Was there a storm? morning enquiring. Never.
I caught him up on the road.
‘Look at the oak,’ he said,
and sure enough it was peeled to the root by lightning
we’d both seen. Its scar
was fierce white. Nowhere
could we see the bark tracked clean off with a fork.
He wouldn’t touch the sore.
‘Reckon it’s hot there.’
Anything else he reckoned or said about it
he carried onto his flight
climbing, level in sunlight,
to Lancashire summers beyond the hideous river.
Glyn Maxwell, “War Hero” from The Boys at Twilight: Poems 1990-1995. Copyright © 2000 by Glyn Maxwell. Reprinted by permission of Glyn Maxwell.
Source: The Boys at Twilight: Poems 1990-1995
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2000)