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Personal Choice 47


So we must say Goodbye, my darling,

And go, as lovers go, for ever;

Tonight remains, to pack and fix on labels

And make an end of lying down together.

I put a final shilling in the gas,

And watch you slip your dress below your knees

And lie so still I hear the rustling comb

Modulate the autumn in the trees.

And all the countless things I shall remember

Lay mummy-cloths of silence round my head;

I fill the carafe with a drink of water;

You say, ‘We paid a guinea for this bed,’

And then, ‘We’ll leave some gas, a little warmth

For the next resident, and these dry flowers,’

And turn your face away, afraid to speak

The big word, that Eternity is ours.

Your kisses close my eyes and yet you stare

As though God struck a child with nameless fears;

Perhaps the water glitters and discloses

Time’s chalice and its limpid useless tears.

Everything we renounce except our selves;

Selfishness is the last of all to go;

Our sighs are exhalations of the earth,

Our footprints leave a track across the snow.

We made the universe to be our home,

Our nostrils took the wind to be our breath,

Our hearts are massive towers of delight,

We stride across the seven seas of death.

Yet when all’s done you’ll keep the emerald

I placed upon your finger in the street;

And I will keep the patches that you sewed

On my old battledress tonight, my sweet.

Alun Lewis

An achingly exquisite poem of love and loss and the pity of war. Alun Lewis along with a cohort of other ‘war poets’ paid the ultimate price.


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