The Identification

So you think its Stephen?
Then I'd best make sure
Be on the safe side as it were.
Ah, theres been a mistake. The hair
you see, its black, now Stephens fair ...
Whats that? The explosion?
Of course, burnt black. Silly of me.
I should have known. Then lets get on.

The face, is that the face mask?
that mask of charred wood
blistered scarred could
that have been a child's face?
The sweater, where intact, looks
in fact all too familiar.
But one must be sure.

The scoutbelt. Yes thats his.
I recognise the studs he hammered in
not a week ago. At the age
when boys get clothes-conscious
now you know. Its almost
certainly Stephen. But one must
be sure. Remove all trace of doubt.
Pull out every splinter of hope.

Pockets. Empty the pockets.
Handkerchief? Could be any schoolboy's.
Dirty enough. Cigarettes?
Oh this can't be Stephen.
I dont allow him to smoke you see.
He wouldn't disobey me. Not his father.
But that's his penknife. Thats his alright.
And thats his key on the keyring
Gran gave him just the other night.
Then this must be him.

I think I know what happened
... ... ... about the cigarettes
No doubt he was minding them
for one of the older boys.
Yes thats it.
Thats him.
Thats our Stephen.

by Roger McGough

Comments (24)

The Leader made me laugh out loud but this one had me in tears.
Does Anybody Know When this was written?
Part Two. We parents can see anything we want to hold death away- or to hold off any proof that our children were not exactly like we thought they were. But inside we know- -our child is dead and nothing is never going to change that horrid fact
Part One- -A nice poem? Really? It is about the most heartbreaking poem I have ever read- -the father does not want this body to be his child's body- he fights recognition tooth and nail- -and to give himself some fragment of comfort he says the cigarettes must have been some other boy's and his son was being thoughtful enough to hold them for him.
Beautiful poem with nice diction. Thanks and cogratulations for being selected as the poem of the day.
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