The Lighter

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Poetry  |  House: Booksie Classic
I've never been to Newburn or anywhere on the Tyne, but I had some unexplained need to write about a hero that put his life on the line for our freedom...

Submitted: September 05, 2013

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Submitted: September 05, 2013



The Lighter


We sat alone beside the Tyne,

He on his bench, I on mine.

His shirt was white, top button done,

And starched stiff. His hair was gone.


From time to time he'd jerk his head

For reasons better left unsaid

As gusts of wind brought dry leaves down,

Some on him, some on the ground.


His pants were pressed. I thought 'It suits

His mirror-finish polished boots.'

Perhaps the war had left him cold.

The world moved on and he’d grown old.


The wind was brisk and made him shiver

As he stared beyond the river.

Three young men came walking proud

To stop by him. They laughed aloud,


These sons of sons of soldiers, all,

These legacies of those that fell

Or came home shells of former men

To hand down that imposed on them.


The trio, bent on their tirades,

Spat at him and brandished blades.

The aging man was easy prey

For hoodlum boys such as they.


Each took a drag, then passed their ace

And blew it in the old man's face.

He sat there staring straight ahead.

They goaded him until I said,


“He's a little slow these days

And doesn't hear what anyone says

For when he was about your age

His eardrums burst from hand grenades


In 'forty-two in northern France

When taking orders to advance.

His troupe had dug a muddy trench

In rock and snow, and they were drenched.


To keep his men from breaking down,

He spoke of home, this very town,

And vowed to keep his England free

For future children like you three.


He called as he went o'er the top

Fight for Newburn! Do not stop!

His comrades followed, eight in all,

But one by one he watched them fall.


He heard their screams, felt their pain,

And turned to take them back again.

He carried them, some live, some dead

With bullets whizzing past his head


Until the eight were back below

The ground now soaked with blood and snow.

He stood his place, kept us alive,

This lone man, 'til support arrived.


Of eight brave souls he saved but three.

I know, for one of them was me.

And so I sit nearby, you see,

To him that helped to keep you free,


With pistol loaded in my vest

(I let them glimpse the silver crest)

In hopes that I may one day get

The chance to finally pay my debt.”


On seeing the wildness in my eyes

They fell quiet, sheathed their knives,


And though I could not quite detect

If they felt terror or respect,

The end result was just the same.

They shuffled off the way they came.


I stood and walked toward the man

Who seemed to need a helping hand.

He fumbled with his one good arm

As if he thought I'd do him harm


But seeing I was just a friend,

And had a hand that I could lend

He motioned, pointing to his lips

And said 'I badly need a fix'.


'Could you help', he asked of me,

'To free me from my misery?'

I put my hand inside my vest,

His eyes still staring to the west.


I stood between the northern squall

And him to make a shelter wall.

'Wait', he snapped, his hand inserted

In the pocket of his shirt.


He chuckled as he rolled a smoke.

'You're quick', he said. 'An army bloke?'

With striker, flint and finger braced,

I raised the metal to his face.


The second try it finally lit,

And he puffed on his cigarette.

© Copyright 2017 Robby Walker. All rights reserved.

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