The call-up got heeded in the same mad rush.
One final push for weary working-men’s boots
as a regiment of missing troops
starved of army camaraderie,
hobnobbed in whiskied uniformity
with the polished shoes of escaped officers
in damp coats and downtrodden moustaches;
as hard earned pennies hurtled headlong
into the noisy night, and on this foreign soil,
this sawdust floor that was forever England,
lay the jettisoned identities of husbands and fathers
out on manœuvres in local pubs
where the menfolk had retired to fight in peace.
Where the fag smoke glazed the grubby hub
of loudening debate,drenched in an epiphany of beer,
and as thoughts of the coming struggle sank
de-commissioned wives and kids
under the muddy duckboards of football and politics,
booze-loosened tongues swilled with smoke and lager,
hands coddled the shoulders of arguable chums
and bodies lurched as close as they needed to get.
Entrenched in opinion, mired in maleness,
the solidarity of the lost. “Let’s have one more drink lads!”
before the officers whistle of the last orders bell
sent them all in staggering silence
to their individual No-mans-lands.