Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Night, night

Night night,.
Sleep tight.
Mind those bed bugs
Don't bite.
Here's Grandad
Vest alight
Killing lice
With candle bright.
Here's mud
On greasy ground,
Blood and body
Parts around.
Old mate’s face
Is turning green.
He can't tell
What he has seen
Night night
Sleep tight
If you can.

I wanted this poem to sound like a nursery rhyme despite the gruesomeness. For us growing up in the fifties, the First World War was not very far away. My Grandad was a wagonner when the war began. He was called up with his horses. My Mum could remember those horses being dressed in horse ribbons to be paraded through the village before they made their journey to France. Grandad drove a water wagon at the start of the war and a water truck by the end. I don't know what happened to the horses. I know he lost a brother and, I believe, a brother-in-law, on the Somme. All they told us kids about his experiences in the war was about the lack of clean clothing. And,how each night in the trenches, Grandad and the other soldiers would kill the lice in their vests by running a candle flame up the seams. Each night Grandad would send us to bed with the words, night, night, sleep tight, mind the bed bugs don’t bite. For me as a young child, the memory of killing lice and the poem got mixed up.

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