He didn't have coal dust on his face.
But his eyes were dark, almost eastern in fact.
He was handsome, his cheekbones showed you that.
His hair was short and his eyebrows trimmed.
With his military tunic buttoned to the neck,
He looked proud in that picture before the war.
Luckier than many of his friends, he returned.
Then I was born and I didn't say thanks.
I don't remember him being proud, just hard-working.
I recall a man in a flat cap. Wearing baggy trousers
With bicycle clips and an ill-fitting jacket.
Who smelled of gas - British Gas.
After the bombs and the bullets, he dug holes in the ground,
Not for soldier's cold dead bodies, but for pipes.
He never spoke to me of fear and fighting,
Or of blood, guts and death. But he was angry
When I borrowed his bike and crashed it.
With a cigarette clenched between his lips
He fixed the twisted metal, muttering adult curses.
As my son grew up, I got angry sometimes
And shouted at his frailties and naughtiness.
Now he screams in frustration at his son
For similar things. Everyone gets upset.
But none of us dodge bombs and bullets
Or have baggy trousers and smell of gas.