I painted some poppies for Remembrance Sunday. I also wrote a poem about what the poppy means to me. After this process I read The Guardian newspaper’s Anthology for Remembrance, and was so moved by Hilary Mantel’s selection, Norman Nicholson’s poem Old Man at a Cricket Match. So, here are a few of my poppies with Norman’s poem, and then my poem at the end.
‘Old Man at a Cricket Match’ by Norman Nicholson (1956)
‘It’s mending worse,’ he said,
Turning west his head,
Strands of anxiety ravelled like old rope,
Skitter of rain on the scorer’s shed
His only hope.
Seven down for forty-five,
Catches like stings from a hive,
And every man on the boundary appealing –
An evening when it’s bad to be alive,
And the swifts squealing.
Yet without boo or curse
He waits leg-break or hearse,
Obedient in each to lease and letter –
Life and the weather mending worse,
Or worsening better.
Poppies for Peace by Daniel Trump (2015)
So, I painted some poppies for Remembrance Sunday.
Not for political piety, nor for Union Jack waving glory,
But for every Jack and John, and Paola and Petra
who has ever been denied a choice,
they suffer for their birth time and place.
So, I painted some poppies for those people.
But (I am told) ‘the Poppy is now a hegemonic form of nationalism’.
No more talk of Donkeys & Lions; just silence.
My Poppies are of Newcastle terraced houses, of milk tokens,
Of poverty’s struggles, and of dreams broken.
So, I painted some poppies for their histories.
These poppies are insufficient for the sufferings of the ends of evil,
insufficient to protest the errors and insincerities of the sacrifice.
These poppies are pale, pathetic and paltry pose and prose.
But these poppies are neither secession nor silence.
So, I painted some poppies in humility, and defiance.
Sedentary comfort of hindsight in easy times
gives luxury to cushioned velveteers.
Not as their belief, fraught of fear
was ever afforded to those in horrific spaces.
So, I painted some poppies for my freedoms, and yours.
These Poppies belong to those in the mud of the Somme, and the dust of Afghanistan.
Owned by those sent to do the bidding of others.
These Poppies are at factory gates, and loves never-ending waits.
These Poppies belong to Jack Butler for his years in the sweltering Burmese jungle.
So, I painted some poppies for your family, and mine.
I painted some poppies because I can because they did.
Poppies for struggle, Poppies for today’s needed learning.
Poppies for our right to decide.
Poppies for refusing to cede the ground to violence
So, I painted some Poppies,