She decides to face the wrath of her teachers
rather than try to silence the conscience
she knows will scream at her in the night.
At five to nine, Ellen turns back from school gate
to bus station, to pay her forgotten fare.
He knows she’s waiting in the rain
but he’s up to his neck, might as well
drown for sheepish grin as lame excuse.
At five to three her dad pops into Betfreds,
places his last tenner on Wet Nelly in the 3.30.
There was always a choice:
a salvo of excuses
or retreat at the double.
Both tactics were practised
during the long years of war.
But words are fuel
and fleeing could mean
hot pursuit up the stairs
to be thrown on the bed,
hands grasping your windpipe.
A more pragmatic response –
to mimic a flower, sensitised to storms,
closing petals before the rain of ammo,
or to abandon radio silence,
take cover between piano & sofa –
a junior squaddie
screaming for back-up
from make-believe reserves,
with more modern armour
against bombardment than
barbute, sallet, bevor, helm,
gorget, pixane, pauncer, vambrace,
poleyn, tasset, gousset, greave.