the hard yards by peterlebaige

 the hard yards
to William ‘Pop’ Rumble 

my grandfather
on my mother’s side
had the kind of look
in his blue eye that
put the wind up me,
a sharpness that
seemed to me, in
my heedless and
running years,
said he saw to
the bottom of me
and what i was
up to,
and who knows,
perhaps what i
would and
he’d done
the hard, the
rotten yards
between trenches
and from the merry-go-
round of machine-gun
fire at passchendale*
carried his life back
in one piece to drive
his locomotives up and
down the hard-won track
our towns were stitched
together with.
his mates
from old war
days no doubt
said he was
strict, a sour
on anzac day
he’d walk in
no dawn parade
to let the chill of
bugle call unhinge
him, he’d enter no
pub and no drop
of beer would touch
his lip that day
lest in a moment’s
foolishness, a careless
bloody laugh, he
might be seen to
betray the catalogue
of horrors he kept
back in mind and
nightmare, and
even more,
lest anyone think
he saw something
to celebrate in
heroic and
drunken tears
and oaths
over something
that never should
have been.

25 april 2018

*This World War One battle on October 12, 1917 cost the lives of 845 New Zealand soldiers on that day with the total the rising to 950 with the deaths of the wounded in the following days.


Grandfather, William ‘Pop’ Rumble with his first wife, Maud, my grandmother.


Originally posted on


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