Red Like the Poppies

poppy wallpaper by Maurice Verneuil

Red Like the Poppies

In 1911, in Britain, the dockers walked out –
And sailors and railwaymen too, across the nation.
Union membership soared, and so did the shout
For something more than this endless pent-up frustration.
A growing awareness had bloomed in the men –
They were no pack-mules who just bleat and cower.
These literate workers had realised then
That labouring hands now held all the power.
The following year, the miners struck –
A million men refused to duck
When facing-down bosses for pride in the pocket –
They wanted a minimum wage – and they got it !
What did they care of the Kaiser ?  Why did they go ?
Ev’ry November, I wonder.  I think I might know –

In 1914, in Britain, the soldiers marched out.
Many were raw volunteers – no draft had been called.
Some were patriotic’ly spurred, I’ve no doubt,
But shoring the empire must have left others appalled.
Yet the labourer’s life, while improving, was hard –
The same old drudging as yesterday.
Who wouldn’t swap for some public regard
In a smart uniform, with travel and regular pay ?
They trusted their orders and killed as commanded,
So can I be angry, if I must be candid ?
I don’t know.  It was lots of things bound-up together –
So either I wear the poppy, or the white feather,
And honour those scabs who refused to be naive or quailed.
Perhaps.  But why hadn’t they joined-up, those Glorious Jailed ?

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