from The Unreturning...
10. The majority illusion
Don’t wander off to chew berries with the enemy and stay within your primate group. When the world is not enough, just pack up your troubles and do your bit for the augmented reality of this, the narrow trench of a new taxonomy. It is, after all, what everyone thinks, the need self-evident in the hashtag bunker of Northcliffe’s Times. The long uneven lines roam impatiently towards their fancied majority, wordless, distracted and lost or about to be. Bayonet pokermen go to your glory remembering that the best lines hold. Just walk towards the foe, who is no longer there you have our word. The basic training ought to suffice, for which your General has an app.
Can’t sing a note, not even the Marseillaise – oh, I’ll give it a go when occasion demands – but I did have the X-Factor they were looking for. Once the press got hold of it I was an overnight sensation: the ‘Heroine of Loos’, a new Joan of Arc. Golden salons, cocked hats, bemedalled generals and the public square, as their ballyhoo broke over me. At seventeen I was that month’s face-of-the-war, mounting the ‘Staircase of Heroes’ to the Panthéon, blazing my comet of a season. Sold an exclusive to Le Petit Parisien and got locked in some chateau to homespin thoughts for the nation. My reason for telling you? I’m not even writing this.
He insists we go outside so that he can show us the moon, our two-year old pointing at his man made of cheese. By the slice of light from the half-open door I look at you; feel the gentle suck of warm air from the grate, a sudden welter of regret tugging at my lungs. God knows, our mood about the house has made such moments few and far between. Moon, moon! he says, as if the word holds the heft of all things. A child’s finger marks the way skyward to this moment and now all roads lead to France. When I slip away at dawn, the thatch is humming with early frost, the downs roll their green path to the sea and all my Tipperaries stretch before me, unreachable, beyond.
Let’s go back to the maths and their anomalous facts. Like a one-nil win with just 10% possession, it’s our guilty liberal secret that, of the 2,226 poets published in the Great War for Civilisation, most of them were up more for the former and the nation than the hassle of reflecting on a Christian education. So, the Richmond 16 are a negligible blip, one of those recurring zeroes packed off to Dyce where they’re forced to break rocks, or are borrowed for the name of a choral ensemble touring their poppy show around the cathedrals. Perplexingly, 88.2% of socialists got cowed into taking part, a stat that, today, gives revisionist fuel for 100% shit like this.
Born in County Durham, Martin Malone now lives in Scotland. He has published two poetry collections: The Waiting Hillside (Templar, 2011) and Cur (Shoestring, 2015). His third, Great War-related collection, The Unreturning will be published in 2018. An Honorary Research Fellow in Creative Writing at Aberdeen University, he has recently finished a PhD in poetry at Sheffield University and edits The Interpreter's House poetry journal.