This is a PROPER poem, a sonnet, no less.
A hundred years have now passed since the First World War heard its first gunfire.
This poem tells of a young man who returns from the trenches horribly disfigured; working once more in the cotton mill, he sees the fear and pity in the eyes of the young woman he ‘could have kissed’ had he not gone to fight for his country.
KISSING THE SHUTTLE
I watch you smiling, as you dance between
Your looms; a beauty and her beasts in drill.
A gentle touch, caressing cloth, machine:
Bonniest lass of all those at our mill.
Oh could I be that shuttle in disguise
And, brushed by your lips, pale and full, might take
The chance to blow the cotton dust from eyes
That surely wept on hearing of my fate
But in those eyes I see nothing but fear
As I, lurching awkwardly with my wrench
Towards you, try to smile but force a sneer
Upon a mouth so warped, deep in a trench
A mouth that could have kissed you once before
I went to France with pals and fought a war
© gray lightfoot
To ‘kiss the shuttle’ was an operation carried out by weavers, using their mouths to suck the thread into the shuttle. It was later found to be a cause of cancer of the mouth.
As a means of encouraging young men to enlist, the idea of forming ‘Pals’ battalions which were made up of young men from the same town was ill-thought out. The Accrington Pals battalion of the East Lancashire Regiment was particularly hard hit during the Somme offensives of 1916. Out of 700 soldiers, 235 were killed and 350 wounded …a generation of the town’s young men were almost wiped out in the space of 20 minutes.
Hear the poem read by Gray…