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1973. Belfast High Street. Two Policemen clearing the street of shoppers and pedestrians while a car bomb waits to go off. It goes off as they pass it again. They are both killed instantly. I saw his face on the TV Local news that night.
One of them is a family friend, his children the same age as me and my sisters. My father and him, best buddies, as my father had been in the police too.
Some years later I visited his widow after loosing touch, and sat with her and chatted in her living room, as she made me tea and handed me some photos, one in a frame. And showed me some nice letters from famous people who had written to her.
I could feel the gaping, searing loss, still raw after 20 years at the time. Its forty now. It hasn’t gone away, you know…!

Frame

Fdf5205c-8b5b-4da8-a6dc-63fe28d680a9by Billy J. Stewart04 Mar 2014

Above that helter-skelter shrill, of children’s yelp,
Outside, somewhere, down the street a bit,
I hear a car pass,
Slow as daylight.
I sit and stare, head full of white haze ache.
They laugh and call some silly name,
In and out of echo-focus,
In joyous vanity, and good to be young, I suppose.
So excited,
And innocent.
Their voices, a coloured backdrop to my recline, rise and fall away, fading back and forth,
Puncturing my drifting mind-lull,
Hearing but not listening,
Breathing but not alive,
Looking at you.
So handsome in that uniform, in your silver frame.
Ah… how I used to iron those big green shirts,
And could only dry them in the house, of course,
For fear the neighbours might know your business,
And tell a tale.
Do you remember?
I remember.
Let me close my eyes and fly that all-familiar flight, into hell.
Its forty years now and yet I still half expect
Your clanging, clumsy, clatter through the front door,
Clumping those size 12s over my clean floor,
Looking for your tea,
And scolding the kids for leaving that mess,
Again.
Funny that – I mean you scolding anyone for mess,
You, the king of clutter.
I could just kill you with my sharpened, daggered anger,
All over again.
I could just punch you, punch, punch, punch…oh sweet God…
A thousand times I have asked you,
Why did you go in that day, just why?
It wasn’t your shift.
What were you thinking to go back to that car to look?
You’d done your bit, cleared the street,
You great, stupid oaf.
You stupid, crazy man.
Did you want a medal?
Well you got one alright.
It’s there beside that lovely letter from the Big Chief.
Thanking me for my sacrifice.
Me.
Well I wouldn’t even have the letter in the house,
Never mind on display,
Only for the kids, who wanted it up.
“For Daddy”.
Well where was Daddy when Daddy’s girl got married?
And where was Daddy when Daddy’s boy passed his exams and got that job?
And bought his car.
You loved cars.
Tick tock goes the clock on the mantelpiece.
Interrupting my train of thought, again.
That forever-dinging wedding present from work, you know the one.
Did you think of me in your last seconds?
I’ve had a lifetime to think of you,
Behind my “brave” and lying face,
And in so doing I could hold no thought of any other.
No tears to well anymore,
Dried like a long forgotten river-bed, cracked and aged in the merciless glare of time.
Let me hold you,
In your frame, your silver frame with lovely two-tone mount.
And rocking back and forth, I might fold my arms around you,
That my shattered heart could almost touch
Your faded, silent, frozen, light-reflected image.
That you might feel my warmth,
And live with me again…