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Every autumn, round this time, we exercise our dead,
from Hallowe’en through Bonfire Night to the Sunday of Remembrance.
Then, after guns and bands, a minute’s silence in conclusion,
but is a minute long enough to reflect on our collusion?

I remember well enough the waiting and the marching,
the fifes and drums, the dragging steps, the brass and bellowed orders,
the stink of blanco, polish, leather, oil and constipation
and all the other bull used to acquit our bloody nation.

The phrases full of gratitude, relief and satisfaction,
the ritual ablution of each survivor’s lousy conscience,
we listened bored and foot-sore to the padre’s pious prattle
of how fine a thing it was to sacrifice oneself in battle.

You know where you can put the Great and Patriotic War,
the military dreams and priests who sanctify the slaughter.
You can screw your King and Country and all that that implies –
that old excuse for shiny boots and uniforms and lies.

You keep the dead. They’ve paid the price for all your greed for glory.
We’ll keep the living and the future for a peace together.
We’ll fight and kill again, I’m sure, if there’s no other choice
but, when we speak of dying, leave the pride out of our voice.

rs 12.11.89 (Remembrance Sunday)