Verdun 1916-2016

 

Verdun 1916-2016

One early summer’s day
         driving into Thamesmead
along an empty highway
         that cuts through land
once owned
         by the Royal Arsenal

On the central reservation
         rising above the tall uncut grass
a handful of poppies
         dance in the light breeze

From an ovoid bud
         four bright red petals
burst forth and unfold—
         the characteristic black spot
at their base

One of the simplest
         and prettiest of wild flowers
the long-stemmed poppies
         spring from natural seed banks
buried in the earth

Seeds are living plant embryos
         some of which can survive
for thousands of years
         dependent on the nutrients
stored in the endosperm

Dormant
         until such time that is
that they are stimulated
         to germinate and rise up
in a kind of resurrection
         so frequently observed
in the shattered terrains
         of no-man’s-land
on the Western Front

John Lyons