Michael Wyndham

The Great British Ritual

Sir Ranulph Fiennes jogging solo
to the North Pole, yet forever
unflappable in the fight
against brutal frostbite; for
he’ll fretsaw necrotic fingers

and soldier on to his goal. As
schooled in salad days at Eton
or in the Royal Scots Greys
or when Bren-gunning Omani
‘Commies’ for the Sultan’s medal.

O Sir Ranulph! you were installed
by glory to Britain’s hierarchy as
the saintly icon for the ritual of
rigid adherence to futile endurance.
An inspiration for the nation’s heroes:

for here comes ‘Bear’ Grylls festooned
with the Scout logo and trumpeting
Baden-Powell’s motto for foiling
the immorality of the idle. For he’s
prepared to rebuff smashed vertebrae

and being strapped to a backpack
of a cannonball; for he’ll conquer
Everest in record summit and
be welcomed home by a TV deal
and a seat at the table with the royals.

Michael Wyndham © 2014

Kate Sharpley


Caged days without charge
in a cell stunk out
by the sweat of the coppers
as they pummelled me
with fists and truncheons
until the mirror view was a horror show
yet, the sergeant grinned
there’d be more of the same
if he saw my ‘ugly anarchist face’
on the streets again.


For I was expected to be agreeable in grief
and stood proud before Queen Mary
as she doled out medals
for my dead father, brother and lover
who were expected to forever
be ‘chirpy Tommies’ cheerily
dying as bullet-full tangles
mangled on miles of barbed wire
with thumbs up and smiles
for King George who’s busily
anglicising his German titles.


So I flung the medals back at the
waxwork face of Her Majesty crying:
“If you think so much of them, you keep them”
But England entrenched in worshipping
royalty gasped: “outrage!”
for the blood trickling
down the Queen’s cheek
was thought a more shocking loss
than the blood of the dead
fathers, brothers and lovers
drowning the fields of Europe.

“Queen Mary was handing out medals in Greenwich, most of them
for fallen heroes being presented to their womenfolk. One 22-year
old girl, said by the local press to be under the influence of anarchist propaganda, having collected medals for her dead father, brother and boyfriend, then threw them in the Queen's face, saying, 'If you think so much of them, you can keep them.' The Queen's face was scratched and so was that of one of her attendant ladies. The police, not a little under the influence of patriotic propaganda, then grabbed the girl and beat her up. When she was released from the police station a few days later, no charges being brought, she was scarcely recognizable”. http://www.katesharpleylibrary.net/0zpcq4

Michael Wyndham © 2014