THE GREAT UNCLE I NEVER KNEW
A sepia afternoon, and a break for tiffin
at gateleg tables under trees. You sit
with other officers, pith-helmeted,
moustached, on folding chairs. A turbaned servant
fills your glass. A voice calls Look this way
and you swivel round, with Leo, to face the lens.
Next summer you’re home on leave. Sussex sunlight
brushes close-mown lawns. Birdsong wakes you
and behind the house a patchwork valley
stretches to a near horizon. It’s all
beer and butterflies and Leo, out of uniform,
catching your eye as he undoes his shirt.
You’ve no idea of the weeks to come ‒of Flanders,
Leo’s death, grief’s black dog. No idea
that a century later I, who share the genes
prompting your love, will find your photograph,
and call on you to look once more this way ‒
not at a lens, but at my open hand.