It’s not often that the 11th of the 11th falls on an actual Sunday, so today feels important and special, in some ill-defined way.
I am glad the sun shines on all the old soldiers, and the young ones too. I watch the ceremony at the Cenotaph with my sister. It is the young fighters who break our hearts. ‘Don’t be sad!’ one boy of eighteen writes in the letter to be sent in case of his death.
The letter is sent.
I wonder at the courage of those parents, who generously gave it to the BBC to be read.
Eighteen, I think.
We stand up for the two minute silence. We are alone in the house. There is no one to see. But it is right to stand.
Afterwards, I go and see the mare. She does not know anything of distant battles in dusty valleys. She knows only these trees and this grass and this Scottish air, and the sun on her back, and me. She knows me.
I don’t really have good enough words for the day of remembrance, so here is Keith Douglas, who does:
How To Kill
Under the parabola of a ball,
a child turning into a man,
I looked into the air too long.
The ball fell in my hand, it sang
in the closed fist: Open Open
Behold a gift designed to kill.
Now in my dial of glass appears
the soldier who is going to die.
He smiles, and moves about in ways
his mother knows, habits of his.
The wires touch his face: I cry
NOW. Death, like a familiar, hears
And look, has made a man of dust
of a man of flesh. This sorcery
I do. Being damned, I am amused
to see the centre of love diffused
and the wave of love travel into vacancy.
How easy it is to make a ghost.
The weightless mosquito touches
her tiny shadow on the stone,
and with how like, how infinite
a lightness, man and shadow meet.
They fuse. A shadow is a man
when the mosquito death approaches.
Beautiful photograph by Ian Forsyth.