the weekly

Exeter, 1974


I think of the man in the Eagle,

nursing his still pint, tasting the foam:

the one with the sealed eyes,

the one who’d been over the edge, the wire,

the firing even now persistent.


They came for him with goads:

tell us about what it was like,

tell us. He sat, cap flat on the table’s top,

same pitch each night in the snug

under its thick fug, staring


into a distance, seeing perhaps

nothing at all,

swatting away inquiries politely,

irises unmoving, everything focused

on the millpond of beer.


Two pints, his ration:

rising thereafter so slowly to go out

into an unyielding night,

behind as ever, mechanical prattle:

he never talks about the war.


Exeter, 1974

It's the hundredth anniversary of the World War One armistice on the 11th. I moved to Exeter in the early 1970s, and occasionally went to a pub called The Eagle, where a man in his late seventies always occupied the same seat. He had, people said, survived the front in World War One.

6 November 2018


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