This poem was inspired by a 2012 Daily Mail story, Teenager is arrested for burning poppy on Facebook. It is about freedom of speech, a freedom that is under constant threat.
BURNING THE POPPY
I choked back my tears, as I pondered the rhyme
On 11/11, at just the right time,
In my home town square, where the wreaths had been laid
And the mayor wore his chain, and the Last Post was played.
“For their tomorrow we gave our today.”
Shall we squander such sorrow? Throw tomorrow away?
A giddy young man set a poppy alight.
This brave new tomorrow, that’s his human right.
I cannot fathom this young man’s rage,
Which might have “gone viral”, left up on his page.
But was it sincere, the remembrance he tested?
Were we glad or appalled, when this lad was arrested?
“He has no respect!”, some of us cried,
As though we’d forgotten why others had died
Bent double like beggars, in trenches, in squalor.
It quite slipped our minds, the reason such valour
Had been demanded of their generation.
They gave their today, for the sake of our nation.
The bobbies today are much younger than I;
Less able than ever to understand why
My dad, who loved peace, played his part in a war,
Then taught his three sons what that war had been for.
An informer phoned in, said, “A poppy’s a-light!”.
The culprit? Arrested! To hell with his “right”!
I can’t figure the meaning, to tell you the truth,
Of burning the poppy, in the mind of the youth.
But I know what that image speaks of to me:
Of those who died, so that he could be free.
Though the money I gave, the legion can keep,
I must too burn my poppy, before I can sleep.
The man that I am, who almost cried,
As I wore my poppy, with sadness and pride,
Has found a new meaning to letting it burn
As I ask fellow countrymen, “When will we learn?”,
And hypocrisy mourns for those killed in just war,
But then sets on fire what they had died for.
With different meaning, his gesture I’ll copy
By putting a light to my own paper poppy;
Not from contempt for the glorious dead,
But out of respect; for, it has been said,
These heroes suffered their undeserved fate
Lest England became just another police state.
(c) copyright John Allman MMXII
Dedicated to my children, Lucy, Emily, Thomas, Kate and Noah.