It is 1914. Maurice Baring writes
of a tremendous moment at Maubeuge,
seeing the arriving British troops
come swinging over a steep hill singing
It’s a Long, Long Way to Tipperary
and how the villagers soon line the street,
showering the troops with flowers and fruit.
They look so young, so invincibly cheerful
that he slips into a shop to hide his tears,
thinking of the undreamt of horror to come.
I, worming into the space he’s left behind,
am holding my wheezy breath in wonder,
little and spindly and madly waving,
until you are out of sight, Grandfather.