The England I love

by John Wilks
The Write Idea
Third Place, July 2013
Judged by Robert Sward

is a land of boredom,
of early closing and Sunday observance,
where women’s work is the weaving of sorrows
into stronger cloth, while the weekly wash flaps
in back gardens as if they were harbours for
a fleet of galleons bound for the Empire’s
farthest isles. My children do not walk if they
can run, do not run if they can skip. Their school
is a bombsite overgrown with weeds, not yet
become a New Town’s concrete henge. Strong men weep
dry-eyed over a handful of silver coins clutched
in calloused palms. The grease and grime of honest
toil etches cheiromantic lines deep in flesh,
to fix the future as firmly as a black-
and-white photograph. Mother tunes the wireless
to Workers’ Playtime, polishes the walnut
veneer as it warms up with the yellow glow
of valves and sings along to patriotic
songs as if the War was never won. My heart
weighs more than our ration of meat, yet simple
fare as love seeks to provide is sustenance
enough for families content to survive.
I know my place, know my role by rote within
that place. No more do I need than certainty.

Yes, the title's ironic, but the poem expresses deep affection for the place, however "boring" he or she might find it. In truth, I believe only a Brit could speak so fondly of the "grin and bear it" quality of the country and admire the spirit of the place and speak in favor of the "grease and grime of honest toil." Yes, THE ENGLAND I LOVE comes alive and cuts through the "gloom" and oppression, praising what his/her countrymen hold in reserve.

There's more than the ring of truth to the poem and one of its virtues is author's ability to conjure up if not name whatever it is that the Brits hold in reserve. For this reader, THE ENGLAND I LOVE comes alive and finds expression in the last two lines "

"I know my place, know my role by rote within
that place. No more do I need than certainty."

There's something emotionally satisfying, a certain inevitability, a "rightness" to this ending. --Robert Sward

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