He rarely spoke of the war
as if to do so would evoke shadows.
But I knew about the wound,
would trace it with my finger –
the tight-corded skin snagged
in the looseness under his chin,
the silvery fishtail of the scar.
I stuck my head above the parapet
and a sniper got me.
He was unlucky, yet lucky too.
It was in the closing days of the war.
After that he was sent to Bruges,
met my mother later at a dance hall,
a girl barely twenty spinning
in a hooped green dress.
Now I am older and know
how chance encounters can set our destinies
along irrevocable paths,
I can bless or curse that German sniper
whose bullet winged its way
towards my being here at all.
And my children, and their children,
– all our lives building in abundance
from the fact that my father did not move
his head forty-five degrees
to face the bullet head on
and suffer a severed windpipe
when his luck ran out.
This poem was shortlisted for The Poems Please Me Prize 2015
Liz has returned to writing poetry after a long break. In a past life she won a number of notable competitions, and had a pamphlet and an anthology published, as well as gaining an MA in Writing at Glamorgan University, with Gillian Clarke as her personal mentor. In the interim she has been writing novels (2 published with Picador as Elizabeth Diamond), teaching, studying counselling and painting.