Henry Calmacott (part one)
Spirits have been called, the way lies open
Waves of interruption, raucous shouts and song
First one cry is heard and then a chorus
Comes again, while the host’s eye resting
on Henry Calmacott, observes a warning sign
Thus bright of voice, to the guest he notes
‘The Celts. How many, who can say?
May be that gang the Romans called the Dobunni.
Pagans, all of them. We’ve had the university men…’
‘Yes. Mr. Woolsaver and his colleague…forget the name.
Minor nobleman from Rennes.’
The host lifts a quieting hand.
Henry Calmacott thinks of
The illnesses had kept him from enlisting
As his brother Michael had, and something he is feeling
Reminds him of a basin jabbed beneath his chin
‘Too sick to be sick,’ some orderly had chuckled, as
He’d sunk again
Now he feels too grieved to shed the tears
That he had seized his handkerchief to damp
But strangely bears a sorrowing sympathy
For Bernard Arthur, poor unhappy sod
‘Because, you know’—he speaks as though he’d spoken
‘Topped himself. That was ’23. In the greenhouse,
With his shotgun.’
(2017, Stephanie Foster)