Passing through Ypres,
We paused for a moment to take in the Cloth Hall.
By the cathedral we parked,
And we wandered the Grote Markt,
Charmed and yet chilled
By the way they had carefully rebuilt it all.
The shops were all shut –
(We’d come on a Sunday, just wanted a look)
English words blared from their posters and flyers
So locals or ex-pats ? We didn’t enquire.
Their windows were filled
With helmets and biscuits and rifles and books.
Then down to the Menin Gate –
Far too triumphant and proud of its names:
Look at how many I bear !
They all did their duty and lie who-knows-where.
Just look at our killed !
And dare you resist us, and dare you lay blame ?
Rank upon rank of surnames,
With first-names reduced to only initials.
People I found myself wishing
Had told their nations to carry on fishing –
But instead, they had fought.
And here were their names, to make it official.
The flags barely moved,
And a few of us found ourselves holding our breath,
And it all seemed so lonely and still
And so thankfully long since the kill,
And yet still overwrought –
A faded and motionless orgy of death.
Ah, hindsight you rogue !
But let us not hate the hard lessons you tell.
So maybe it’s time to finally suture,
Time now for Ypres to find a new future.
And here’s a thought:
Maybe let’s spell it as Ieper from here on as well.