Pas de Calais: September 1964
by Jerome Betts

The groundsheet covers clods, which give such pain
They have us taking, earlier than planned,
A short cut over recently ploughed land,
Its ridges sticky after hours of rain.
But fields transformed to clutching mud and froth
Are travel stories. We can ride away
Since dawn brings with it merely one more day,
No iron machine impaling us in wrath.

Two grizzled workers from the bus-stop queue
Try out again the phrases that were stamped
Across young minds when foreigners first camped.
Left! Right! Left! Right! Their memories run through
The sodden ranks as roofs of moss-pocked tiles
And peeling shutters ribbon past, a street
Which echoes to the boots on blistered feet
The old men resurrect along the miles.