Break time. I shook the poppies in a box
fired with the mission of remembrance.
The green-uniformed girls favoured milk,

dipped-in biscuits, their turned backs a snub
to those Irish that had made England great,
my father said, in armies and navies

saving the West from dictatorship. Ignoring
the prefect who, through her copper hair,
condemned my father as a traitor, I watched

the poppies’ centres blacken further, each one
shot through the middle. His cruisers and flagships
tossed bravely in my mind, in the name of pacificism,

not war, on a sea patterned by sodality medals
that jigged outside the convent windows –
sounding out the catechism, each pat response.

On the hockey pitch’s fake battlefield, girls
from the same class played on enemy teams
to staff applause, attesting to the nonsense

of hostility on neutral ground despite histories
in Gaelic high on segregation. In West Cork
where he came from, my captain father, whiles back,

would have had to live three miles at least inland
under English orders, would have had stolen
from his home coastline, for an Empire’s fleet, trees

that would have carved themselves into sailing ships
for the navigation of his own depths. Without grudges,
he had been on every side at once: of sea, land, song

and story. The straight rainbows on his chest
dubbed him First Sea Lord of humanity – beyond
Scappa Flow, the Atlantic, Pearl Harbor where he served.

I shook and shook the box. The fluted edges
of the poppies flared like nuns’ wimples; their petals
waxed by candles congealed into a single wound.

No takers except the bell. In the cloakroom: rows
of empty lapels shaped like wings of fled wild geese
and piles of closed, shamrock-tinted copybooks.

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