Poetry

Smoke Rings in Guernsey

By 21st July 2012December 9th, 2019No Comments

The soldier
stubbed out the cigarette
with the heel of his face
reflecting boots and quietly
watched the boy; shoulders hunched,
holes in the elbows of his jumper,
a cane fishing rod in his hand and
eyes fixated on the water

just occasionally the eyes focused
on a single piece of flotsam, but not
once did the boy turn his head and
meet the eyes of the soldier; who
by now had moved to within six feet
of his side. “Are they biting today?”

The boy
remained silent. “ I have a boy back home,
he likes fishing too. We used to go together,
but now he also fishes alone.
May I sit?” The boy shifted slightly,
appearing a little uneasy
“I’m supposed to hate you.”

The soldier
remained impassive except
for a sharpness of pain in his
blue eyes and an escaping
sadness of a drawn out sigh.
But it didn’t escape the boy,
who raised his head a little.
“ What’s your boy’s name?”

“ Gunter,
his name is Gunter, after my father.
And your name?” The boy lowered
his head again. “Do you miss him?
My father is away; he can’t come back
to the island, because you are here.
That is why I am supposed to hate you.”

The soldier
sat down beside the boy,
his long legs reaching down
the harbour wall. Heedfully he lit
a cigarette and with practised ease
blew smoke rings into the air
between them. “Yes I miss him.
It is hard no, to be separated.”

The boy
followed the smoke rings
with eyes as grey as the sea;
till they disappeared into a nothingness.
Is that what hate is a nothingness?

“It’s Alan”
the boy responded,
slipping the fishing rod
into the soldiers free hand.

Not a fish was caught; in
that tangible afternoon,
when son and father
sat on the quayside, eyes
levelled on the horizon,
sharing the loneliness
and distance of war.

Jan Hedger

Author Jan Hedger

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