In Memoriam, Private Hugh McDowall (1895-1918)
These paper poppies pinned on striped lapels,
(The ‘patriotic fashion’ thing to do,)
No longer linking flowers with the hells.
How do they remember you?
Assurances your grieving widow seeks:
“Shot in the heart, his death came suddenly.”
Your dying thoughts that must have plagued for weeks—
“And do they remember me?”
Comes tardy Death arriving on the scene
With Belgian medics hacking life from limb—
She’s unapologetic, slow, unclean.
But I will remember him,
That husband, father, Catholic Paisley man
Whose regiment was Orange as the Boyne—
The Sally Army fed him. In their can
I drop my remembered coin.
The men entrenched with blood and lice and rats
Their feet were rotting in their very boots
While Haig and others bullringed, fat as cats
These crimes, my remembered roots.
We’ll not forget a single wasted life,
That generation lost to gas and wires,
A century gone by and ours the strife
At earls, and remembered liars.
Those shameful plumes for conscientious men
And women, bearing stretchers for the dead,
We wear with pride. Their courage lives again
Remember, they also bled.
For every man they shot at bloody dawn,
For every woman raising kids alone,
For every poppy on the Tower lawn,
For names on remembrance stone:
We pin them for the day the gunsmoke clears:
These feathers, white for gas-corrupted phlegm.
McDowalls are spent. We’ve no more ‘volunteers’.
Instead, we remember them.
Author: Lucy McDowall
Liùsaidh (LJ McDowall) is a poet, author, and literary editor from Scotland. As LJ McDowall, she edits Quarterday, a poetry journal dedicated to classical poetry. Her poems have been widely published online and in print, most notably in Poets and War, Eastern Structures, Setu Magazine, the Ghazal Page, and many others. Her poetry has received honourable mention in the World Haiku Review and is forthcoming in Measure. She writes mostly of love and war.