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Ricciardi P.O.W

 


Out of the sun he came, fevered
and broken by the war’s flame.
Out of India they plucked him and trudged
him through the sweat of the camps
north and north until the sun
losing its heat in the gentle slant
of a Welsh summer’s day, bathed
and laid him to wait and wait war’s rumble
to die in Italian skies.

Here the sea had a softer glint
and the gentle rain washed
the dust from his stinging eyes,
solace settled on anxiety’s ache to know
how long to the wars end; and the old life
was a dream shrinking down the gun’s barrel
peopled with faces bleached and faded
by the brightness of the southern sun.

So when he saw her on that sad Welsh farm
carrying water and coal, the children round her feet,
the old flame – that flowered first
in the saucer of Naples Bay – flickered,
hope grew in the dust of forgotten love
and the glint returned to his eye again.
She caught his smile from deep in her own
misery, and a hopeless love was born.

Who knows the excitement
of a stolen love in a few stolen years
thieved from a raging broken world,
and who knew more than her in a closed world
the dreadful risk and the penalty;
but passion knows no shame, and they fell
gently into the furtive subterfuge
of love in instalments.

Then their child’s first cry
shrill in the daffodil sun of a spring day
brought hope at the war’s long ending
and the inevitable return to reality and Italy.
Taking a risk he came to see his child
creeping up to the farm in desperate hope
leaving only with a lock of her newborn hair
which flew from his hand on the Welsh wind.

She came to see him by the prison camp
and they held their child between them
among silent trees by the riverside,
embracing tearfully for the last time.
He went, as she knew he would, filled with
promises for the future and when he wrote
asking her to come with all her children
she did not reply.

 

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