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We'd laid old George to rest the week before,
at ninety-one he now rejoined his wife,
no heirs to his estate, so one thing more
to do, and that's clear where he'd spent his life.
Downstairs had been quite easy, George was neat,
his things all had a purpose, neatly stored,
for tidiness this home was hard to beat
all clean and dusted, nothing was ignored.
It seemed almost that since his wife passed on
his solemn duty was to keep a shrine,
no other purpose now that she had gone,
he spent each day just sat, biding his time.
A plain and simple man, a life lived long
but opening a hatch proved we were wrong.
Met with a cold shaft of descending air
and particles of dust caught in the light
I climbed up while my friend steadied the stairs
feet dangling then disappeared from sight.
The torchlight didn't lie, I'd been deceived,
expecting just to find an empty space,
instead I stared unable to believe
how much there was in such a tiny place.
Now, yes, I would expect a Christmas tree
and Golf clubs that had long since seen a round,
a failed attempt at home brewing, maybe
and pictures he thought lost but never found.
But hidden in a tired old briefcase
were things well hid that old George couldn't face.
Tied in a green silk ribbon, slightly frayed
letters to him from his loving Maureen
about over the years the plans they'd made,
a little odd, since his wife's name was Jean.
A small cardboard box held a simple note
with medal and a ribbon tucked inside
thanking him, someone's wife had briefly wrote,
for being with her husband when he died.
I sat and read, transfixed, beside the hatch
the commendation from his high command
for acts of courage, mentioned in dispatch
in battles fought across Tunisia's sands.
It seems for these few things George had no use,
the man who wouldn't say 'Boo' to a Goose.
No time to dwell on this, I carried on,
my eyes attracted to a wooden box
the thing that caught my eye as torchlight shone
was that the lid had far too many locks.
This was no safe, a simple wooden crate
that otherwise one wouldn't think about
easy to break but did such locks dictate
that what was in there wasn't coming out?
A screwdriver was all it took to break
the brass hinges and hasps around the lid,
this liberty I was about to take
I suddenly was sorry that I did.
I paused for breath and let some moments pass
my preconceptions shattering like glass.
Swaddled within a crocheted woollen shawl
doll-like but skin with a leathery feel
chin touching knees curled up into a ball
at first glance, just a toy- but this was real.
she looked maybe, oh, three months old, I guessed,
and judging by the romper suit, a girl,
in cheery pinks and white she lay there, dressed
with matching bonnet hiding wispy curls.
Horror and disbelief fought for control,
recoiling, heart rate now in overdrive,
a stark realisation gripped my soul
that George knew of this when he was alive.
This open box no longer could disguise
the George we thought we knew was built on lies.
Composure now regained, I reached inside
and gently pulled the card out from her hands
on which the feelings mother had to hide
were written for someone to understand.
“ I had my child in nineteen fifty two
but out of wedlock gave birth secretly
they would have taken her, what could I do?
She's all I had and was the world to me.
I moved away and found another place
a dingy hole, so damp, not very nice
one night I woke and saw her pallid face
and realised for this she'd paid the price.
In case folk find out she must stay unseen,
Please take care of her, George, my love- Maureen.
The loft now cleared is empty, hatch is closed,
Golf clubs and barrels gone to garage sales,
the picture frames, well, I hung on to those
and good dish cloths and towels still tied in bales.
The medals and dispatches soon will sit
within a glass case for the world to see
since they're a recollection truly fit
for such a hero no-one knew but me.
And what of the secret letters? They're all gone
ashes to ashes, as they surely must.
Child's memory will no longer live on,
returned now to the ground to turn to dust.
no trace left for the future, no more proof
that there were two Georges under one roof
For contest 'Photo story', sponsor Eve Roper. Picture number three.
15th November 2017
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