THE LOOKS OF LOSS

The Sunday Post (Inverness) - - OPINION - BY JACKIE KAY

He lost the party, or the party lost him;

And the list of losses came al­most nightly.

How al­ready he’d lost his smile, his grace.

How at night, or un­der the morn­ing mist, he lost face. How for miles he plod­ded mak­ing his list of losses. He knew the faces of loss as in­ti­mately as his own. He knew loss’s husky voice, its strange frown.

He knew the way its hair fell out; the way loss fell down. He knew loss. He’d been in loss’s town.

He knew the colour of loss, its park benches

He knew the smell of loss took him to the trenches. He knew the glaikit gazes, the lost sons’ faces

He knew loss was not choosy: it could pick out any one. He knew it car­ried no watch; grief keeps a dif­fer­ent clock, That to loss the morn­ing or evening were all the same that he could find loss stock-still, lame. Or that it could run be­hind in the rain. He knew it could jog ahead in real time. He knew loss’s game, its hid­ing places. He knew he wasn’t the only one count­ing down.

He knew loss. He’d been in loss’s town.

Pic­ture:

And the next thing he was half ly­ing against a wagon in the rain And who knew where he came from, or to where he would go? After the third Bat­tle of Ypres, they were soon dis­persed And he kept that loss close lest he should ever for­get.

He’d watched lost ships sail down the Clyde And lis­tened to the noises from child­hood loss The bells and the jin­gles and mid­night owls. And for years after the war, it seemed that all the losses Fol­lowed him in their old dead boots

And the losses still to come walked ahead in their old dead boots And ev­ery­where around him was the thud of loss, Heavy-footed with trench feet, thickly coated in mud. Seek­ing the drowsy, the ex­hausted, the run-down.

He knew loss. He’d been in loss’s town.

Loss like the loss he felt when he waved good­bye to his mother, like the loss he felt when he wrote to his fa­ther. Loss like the limbo-loss be­tween two cul­tures Loss like the loss when you’re wiped out the pic­ture. Loss like the loss when some­body shouted black b ***** d Loss like the loss when the lance cor­po­ral died at din­ner.

Stained glass by Douglas Stra­chan at The Scot­tish Na­tional War Me­mo­rial in Ed­in­burgh Cas­tleAn­to­nia REEVE\SNWM

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