Statue at The National Memorial Arboretum

by Bert Flitcroft

Figures cast in bronze or carved in oak
leave me indifferent.
I see no sadness in stone,
no beauty in Graces, or gargoyles,
or polar bears on plinths quarried
from cold-sores on the earth’s skin.
No grief in the chiselling of names.

For me, it is the sundown fading of a bugle,
the quiet breath of words.
Yet, look at this white figure by the river,
trench coat hanging from stiff shoulders,
hands manacled behind a post,
strips of cloth across his eyes.
A regimental fusilier perhaps;
a private, enduring
knots in the stomach, the soiling;
a baker’s boy with a bicycle;
a trembling clerk shot for his refusal.
He is all of these.

And this is how it was.
The boot emerging somehow
from the stone into today
moves me back
down the line
into a birdless dawn
for the barking of the order,
the crack of bullets to pierce the envelope.


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Brum library shotBert Flitcroft was Staffordshire Poet Laureate 2015-17 and curated The Staffordshire Poetry Collection. He has two poetry collections published: ‘Singing Puccini at the Kitchen Sink’ and ‘Thought Apples’.

For more about Bert, his experience and his poetry, visit his website at