This poem works on a repeated every-other-line full rhyme. I started it as little more than an exercise to try to ease myself back into writing regularly, but then, because of the nature of the theme and its context within these centenary years of the First World War, the poem began to adopt greater consistency and substance.
TAKING THE SHILLING was published in the London Progressive Journal in the spring of 2017.
TAKING THE SHILLING
There must have been a moment,
sudden, like a blade of light,
or moments, as in the opening of an eye
at the end of a long. slow night
when each one in his time
thought, “This is right,
this call to arms”, or, “I have
this opportunity to go to fight
and do my demons down in alleyways
or sand-dunes”, or just, “Times are tight.
I need a ladder out of here right now
and maybe this just might
see me through”. And so,
where chance, despair or appetite
combine, we embrace each one
in his time. For each the bright
shilling, for each the brave
companions, for each the height
of passion, the glorious possibilities.
But for some, for many, for most, blight
and decay within the shrinking circle of the self
in street or pub or kitchen. Dynamite
shoved into a wall by kids –
a mobile phone, so simple to ignite
and shred in a second where a bullet
might accommodate. Or maybe something sight
unseen, the scar inside: your best mate grinning
by your side and then he’s meat. Or a wound so slight
because invisible, hidden amongst the ganglia.
Either way, who’s counting? The world is a white
room with no doors or windows. This is
your acknowledgement: so ignominious, so trite.
TAKING THE SHILLING read by DICK JONES
ARTHUR McBRIDE by PAUL BRADY
THE DESERTER by FAIRPORT CONVENTION