Remembrance (2014-2018) A hundred years from when they marched straight of limb and stupefied with song to fall with their faces to the foe, we were always destined for a four-year festival of faux remembrance. A nation standing still in silent thrall to the century’s winning spin: They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. Were the children of Dunblane and Sandy Hook that lucky too? When cadets in Peshawar are called forward one by one for execution by a bullet in the brain, when a helicopter falls like a stricken bird out of the sky to kill young people in a pub below, when cafes and concert halls become slaughter-houses for the people of Manchester and Paris, nobody stands beside the graves proclaiming to the world that age shall not weary them nor the years condemn. Wilfred Owen, who knew the pity and the cess of war, and mourned the prospect of the undone years, disavowing the consolatory, was one of those the years could not condemn. He would have welcomed the embrace of age. But still we choose the consolatory long after those who needed consolation for Passchendaele or Delville Wood, for Mons or Arras or the Somme, have followed the ones they loved into the earth. We know, with Grenfell and McCrae, what it is to live, feel dawn and see the sunset glow, we know that life is colour and warmth and light – yet we allow the cadences of poetry to celebrate their loss and wrap the lie. The notes of the last post dying on the wind, white crosses ranked in ordered lines, poppies sprouting on lapels each autumn, the elegiac rhythms of the verse – all serve to sanitize the cess. From Flanders fields to suit lapels those poppies flow, from parliament, to football field, to studio. Poppies that declare we care about dead sons and brothers, about fathers blown to bits in far off lands – as long as they were ours, of course. But we do not care enough not to vote for photogenic men who wear their poppies every year to show they care, but do not care enough not to send out other people’s hopes, and loves, and lives, to die hideously in foreign fields.