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Soldiers of Providence

 

Uxbridge’s Providence Congregational Church once stood in the Lynch, before demolition in the 1960s.  Hillingdon's archive collection includes a carefully kept photo album, featuring the faces and fate of their congregation that served in WW1.

These moved Council Collections Officer, Paul Davidson to write this poem and share their Hillingdon Stories.

See all those faces and Paul's poem on YouTube here;

 

Soldiers of Providence by Paul Davidson

I

The soldiers on each page
are laid out like moths or cigarette cards,

folded in their khaki,
continually captured in the act of leaving.

They gaze into the camera
or through it,

with a shared look
like lambswool or clover,

each face calm and uncertain.

II

Like men already passed over,

layered in thin brasses, a litter
of dead leaves, anthracite,

infinitely delicate,
food for lyddite and the attendant gases.

III

We imagine meeting them

on long roads, companionable lawns
as we would choose to,

in the lengthening calm
of star shells,

faint attenuate souls,
marled and expressionless.

IV

Each turned sheet fades them;

they age, and retain some part of us,
a gently accumulated weight,

veiling the dead
as it must

with the kind faint quality
of memory.

V

They will inevitably cloud
and fail,

faltering at last
to minute pools

of brown and silver salts,

in which they float featureless,
limp faces cold as candles,

forever coming up for air,
the soft flesh loosening,

framed in sinkholes
which share and obscure them.

VI

Here though they remain,
in winter fields, home farms,

under the grave alders

acceptant ghosts,
shouldering their secrets,

brown eyes filtering
to ash and clinker,

leaving only the faint gelatin,

the far drip of rain
on tin helmets.

Paul Davidson

Providence Congregational Church Uxbridge  G Baily William Charles Barrett  Horace Wooster  Horace Wooster detail  Thomas Morris  Thomas Morris detail   Ralph Hook restored  Charles Wilcox  Charles Wilcocks detail  Sister R M Hook

 

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