Aged 15, I was chosen with others,
all worthy, serious and well mannered,
to accompany the harvest produce to
a hospital for ex servicemen –
The Star and Garter, Richmond Hill.
A girls’ school with a thousand pupils
must have given a lot of marrows and such –
I don’t remember much of that.
We’re taken to a ward to meet a few.
Long rows of beds down either side
neat and white as false teeth,
arranged with military precision,
Men, bedridden since the 1940s
stare up the ward with dead eyes
at the apparition not seen for 15 years
of young women in school uniform.
The nurses, all angels
with starched wings clipped to their hair
tell us that some men have been here
since the ’14 – ‘18 War.
My shocked brain photographed the scene.
In a trench of shyness
I cannot get over the top
into no man’s land –
the space between us.
Next year, I did not volunteer.
Part of Long Exposure’s ‘Looking Back’ project, for National Poetry Day.
Bio: Elizabeth Lee’s poetry is varied. She is a member of a writing work shop run at Aberystwyth University’s Art Centre, and occasionally reads at its ‘Chinwag’ open mic event.