A Letter To Ma by Sitara Khan

Ma dearest,
I snatch a few moments between chores
for my pen to soothe your nerves
and swell your heart.

Your coquettish ‘little’ girl
chaperoned around Harrods
is grown tall on the duty and honour
to serve our Country.

At first, the stubborn smell of disinfectant,
the ubiquitous sight of blood
did turn my stomach blancmange;
the soldiers’ bawdy banter
my countenance plum.

Whilst on my knees the Madonna
hands me the key,
“These soldiers,” she says,
“some younger even than you,
have lost an arm, an eye and more,
what harm do you think they can do?”

Like a jinni opening Aladdin’s cave
with a single turn of the key,
I step into my wards, my senses anew.
Whilst men in Surrey are sound asleep,
I hear my soldiers’ groans
grow dark with the night.

Cursing the toffs, one hauls up his legless body.
“I lost me legs and me lass
whilst I ’ad one; she ’ung on fo’ me pay,
when I lost t‘other she left me fo’ another.”

I think of your afternoons: tea on the lawn;
playing bridge in the evenings;
Pa at his golf or taking sea air.
I wonder if the flame tulips
are trumpeting their wares yet.

I’m ever favoured, so I’m a Sister.
Of the bronze crest on my belt,
I draw you a picture.
To my mother from her loving daughter
until the next post.