This poem is accompanied by two short improvisations by jazz pianist Robert Mitchell. You can listen to them below, available by kind permission from the musician © R.Mitchell/Bucks Music Group
“Is May The Month Of Poppies”
“In Kingston, they were buds that ran through May rain”
For Eric Wilson
Is May the month of bluebells, smiles or death?
Victory in Europe or womb blood
spilt before a son takes his first breath
on a plantation, a pregnant belly cleft?
My partner lays the fake grass – I’m a dud
at DIY. This May we fist-fight death
like Walter Tull, goalscorer, Lieutenant
who left ape chants for the Somme’s trench songs. Mud
was dug for Eric – his sweet, soaring breath
was lost to Covid. He still knows the heft
of Dad’s coffin. In Kingston, they were buds
that ran through May rain, V signs raised to death.
Race riots blazed Newport and Toxteth
yet Britain was my army father’s love.
Should we wear May poppies for the disproportionate deaths
of Britons of Colour, Covid bereft?
My partner tells our eldest, ‘Fam or blud,
not n…’ Silence. Her warm and flowing breath
is the breath of children born to out-run death.
© Marvin Thompson
With kind permission of the poet