War Requiem

two blue-grey German caps

big for child heads and serge-itchy

brazen with eagles rampant

on claw-seized swastikas

emblems of Panzer rank

stitched-on torn-off Nazi tags

icon-embossed buttons ripped

from Wehrmacht worsted corpse

all these passed through our fingers

in rare moments when father

could be persuaded to reveal

demons that kept him from reunions

his stained commando knife

and cheese-wire garrotte

all shiny refined-grain handles

his compass his cyanide capsule

monosyllabic to our interrogation

he would return Pandora’s coffer

to its locked cupboard on high

fobbing us off with safe morsels

how hard training at Loch Eriboll 

made it for them Loch ‘Orrible

how they bootblacked a comrade’s

cock and balls on wedding night

what banes from that box linger

most of all the peat-brown liquor

spirit-level bubble

in clear bitable isinglass

I see my father tortured

Promethean liver-pecked

but nipping this bitter pill

escaping down this final tunnel

long after he sold his box

his medals his young manhood

somewhere that tiny poison

kept EXIT a-glow in the dark

television blares closing ceremony

volume adjusted for the deaf

London’s Olympic Games are over

an old man is rug-sprawl cold

there is the empty jug

there are the rifled blister-packs