after the account by Charles Fernyhough
They called a spade, a spade; a grave,
a grave; and duty unequivocal. His, to lead
the burial detail out to what the islanders
called camp. Body bags scarce, they laid them out
as if for night, each sleeping sack a winding sheet.
Too late, his flinch as soil went in, the weight
of his spade mistimed, the load misaimed,
revealing the face of his mate below. Too late
to turn, too late to escape the stare that said,
I am not dead, although he knew it was a lie.
They called a scare, a scare; a shock, a shock;
endurance indispensible. His, to yomp away
into the future, that face ever there: a friend
who never said to him, Don’t bury me, but says it
every waking hour in all the trenches of his brain.
First published in New Writing Scotland 2014
Brian Johnstone’s work has appeared throughout Scotland, in the UK, North America and Europe. He has published six collections, most recently Dry Stone Work (Arc, 2014), and his poetry appears on the UK Poetry Archive website. A founder and former Director of StAnza: Scotland’s International Poetry Festival, he has read at festivals from Macedonia to Nicaragua, and venues across the UK. brianjohnstonepoet.co.uk