STAR POems: The Ditty Box

Imaginary words written by a sailor on board HMS M33 – Gallipoli 1915

I lift the lid and find
his whole life harboured here;
things that he kept safe:

a photo of his wife Mary –
baby daughter Jess – tress
of her hair tied with red ribbon,

three letters from home
telling news of harvest,
of felling trees in the orchard,

a picture postcard from Alf
his brother, sent from Plymouth;
Derry’s clock decked out in bloom…

and here’s his baccy pouch,
his diary full of pencil sketches
of the ship’s cat sleeping,

and the white starched hankie,
initials embroidered by his sister Doris –
his boot brush and blacking.

I can see him now, his big hands
buffing and skimming
until he could see his face

shine in the leather – his happy face.
I pack up his pen and pipe,
his wash things…

stow his world away
to send to his widow and Jess –
and all who come after.

Published in South 53 2016