Memorial Day

  by: Maggie Butt (1955- )

from Lipstick
In war time women turn to red
swivel-up scarlet and carmine
not in solidarity with spilt blood
but as a badge of beating hearts.

This crimson is the shade of poets
silenced for speaking against torture,
this vermillion is art
surviving solitary confinement,

this cerise defies the falling bombs
the snipers taking aim at bread-queues,
this ruby’s the resilience of girls
who tango in the pale-lipped face of death.

(Based on observations in Bosnia and Afghanistan 
by war photographer Jenny Matthews.
Confirmed by the Max Factor catalogue 1945.)

The Family Has Been Informed
  by: Roger Elkin (1943- )

not of the salt-mill of stars

in the bleak night skies

not of the chill mists slipping

from hillsides, and the eerie stillness

that falls over village, over road, 

over goat and sheep trail, 
the look-out posts

not of the taste of grit dust, 

of sand on fear-dry lips,
or the way it clogs nostrils

and places veilings over eyes
so you understand why faces of locals 
are swathed in scarves

not of the fact that there is not ever

the slightest chance you’d catch a glance

of a sniper’s profile, only fire flash

barking through darkness 
from distant Kalashnikovs

not of the wide open faces of mates

collapsing to caricatures of string-puppets 

sliding – slowly, slowly – out of action, 

heads lolloping forward, 
and limbs slithering 

as when bullets bring into flower
their fleshy wounds,

startling, blood-fresh

no, not any of this:

all that goes without saying,

is part of the job

but of the fact that last night
on patrol in Helmand Province,
their son
became the one hundredth serviceman
so far this year

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