My response to dVerse Poets Pub Poetics – Character Study


At just eighteen

He was a survivor

Of the Boer War

And then, at thirty,

The Great War,

A Colour-Sergeant Major

And one-time member,

Scarlet dress-coat

And bear-skin wearer

Of the Queen’s Guard.

Returning home from France,

Away from the thunder

Of guns that blew his men asunder.

Somewhere in a photographer’s archive,

His face full of pride,

He was stored on a glass plate

Along with the fate

Of other courageous men.

Once, exhausted, resigned and full of fear,

A hairless, wide-eyed boy,

With the stench

Of the trench

In the mud

On his boots

And a thousand-mile stare,

He was caught by the click of a camera

In the midst of the horrors of war.

He became a stern disciplinarian,

A Water Buffalo,

With a waxed moustache,

Exuding ale and tobacco,

Lining up his pipes

In precise military fashion,

Winding up his tick-tock clock,

A pocket watch on a brass chain

Hidden in his waistcoat,

With a secret twinkle in his steely eye

That he kept just for me.


© Kim M. Russell, 2016


21 thoughts on “Survivor

  1. This was wonderful! So many great lines and rhythm–With the stench/Of the trench/In the mud/On his boots. . .and perfect character study. You captured it–the horror remaining buried in his mind, the stern military man, and the softness for you. Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. He died when I was four but I remember him so clearly. My second cousin put together a family history , which is where I found the photographs of him as a soldier. He was a real character and owned several South East London pubs in his later years. My grandparents worked in the pubs sometimes and mum was left upstairs with a well-trained dog that guarded her and raised the alarm if she cried!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love how you described him as a young man seeing the horrors of war, to finally being a disciplinarian with a twinkle in his eyes for you ~ The sketch is personal, along with the pictures Kim ~ I enjoyed learning more about you ~

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Such an honor to make his acquaintance via your lovely poem Kim ❤ especially love "With a secret twinkle in his steely eye that he kept just for me." Beautifully expressed 🙂

    Lots of love,

    Liked by 1 person

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