(after the Armistice 1918)
When the men come back to Soar and Salem,
they’re not the same men that they were.
Despite settling straight-backed on polished pews
the noise still fills their heads;
the smell of the polish reproaches the stench
that lived so long in their nostrils;
horrid spectres are seared on their eyes;
and the two hands joined in prayer today
are hands that slid a comrade yesterday,
by the spadeful, into a sack.
There are several gaps here this evening
and the men share their pews
with those who weren’t there – but they can’t ‘share’ either.
They’re like bread and wine…
And the women who come to Soar and Salem?
Well, they’re no longer the women they were,
having slipped the yoke of domestic chores,
for the challenge of the work place;
having endured cruel uncertainties
before an alien letter poked its tongue through the door
and dropped like a corpse on the mat.
Many empty firesides come with them here tonight,
many ribbons of correspondence neatly tied in drawers,
many carefully cheery chats with their premature ends…
But each with their different wounds from ‘up the line’
come to seek some meaning from the bread and the wine.
Ifor ap Glyn
Bardd Cenedlaethol Cymru | National Poet of Wales
(Here’s a poem by Ifor ap Glyn, National Poet of Wales, commissioned by BBC Cymru Fyw to note the centenary of the 1918 Armistice.)