“Poppies” is a poem by the English poet Jane Weir, first published in 2005 as part of her collection The Way I Dressed. Written in response to the poet Carol Ann Duffy’s call for more war poems about the deaths of British soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, Weir’s poem imagines the trials and difficulties of war from the perspective of a mother who sends her child off to fight. The poem investigates this grief by comparing it, through an extended metaphor, to the more general feeling of anxiety that all parents face as their children prepare to enter a frightening and often violent world.
Three days before ...
... around your blazer.
Sellotape bandaged around ...
... of my face.
I wanted to ...
... of your hair.
All my words ...
... slowly melting.
I was brave, ...
... were away, intoxicated.
After you'd gone ...
... from its cage.
Later a single ...
... of scarf, gloves.
On reaching the ...
... on the wind.
Select any word below to get its definition in the context of the poem. The words are listed in the order in which they appear in the poem.
Remembrance Poppies — An article from the British Legion about the history of the Remembrance Poppy.
Jane Weir's Life Story — A brief biography of Jane Weir from the British-based Poetry Archive, with links to some of her other poems.
Jane Weir Discusses and Reads "Poppies" — The poet walks around her village in the north of England, showing off the key places in the poem and discussing her thinking behind it. At the 6:30 mark she reads the poem aloud.
World War I — A brief history of World War I from Britannica.
"Exit Wounds" — An article on the British poet Carol Ann Duffy's decision to commission war poems in response to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which lead to Jane Weir writing "Poppies."
1Three days before Armistice Sunday
2and poppies had already been placed
3on individual war graves. Before you left,
4I pinned one onto your lapel, crimped petals,
5spasms of paper red, disrupting a blockade
6of yellow bias binding around your blazer.
7Sellotape bandaged around my hand,
8I rounded up as many white cat hairs
9as I could, smoothed down your shirt's
10upturned collar, steeled the softening
11of my face. I wanted to graze my nose
12across the tip of your nose, play at
13being Eskimos like we did when
14you were little. I resisted the impulse
15to run my fingers through the gelled
16blackthorns of your hair. All my words
17flattened, rolled, turned into felt,
18slowly melting. I was brave, as I walked
19with you, to the front door, threw
20it open, the world overflowing
21like a treasure chest. A split second
22and you were away, intoxicated.
23After you'd gone I went into your bedroom,
24released a song bird from its cage.
25Later a single dove flew from the pear tree,
26and this is where it has led me,
27skirting the church yard walls, my stomach busy
28making tucks, darts, pleats, hat-less, without
29a winter coat or reinforcements of scarf, gloves.
30On reaching the top of the hill I traced
31the inscriptions on the war memorial,
32leaned against it like a wishbone.
33The dove pulled freely against the sky,
34an ornamental stitch, I listened, hoping to hear
35your playground voice catching on the wind.