Ivan Head: ‘A Day in St Woolworth’s is Better than a Thousand Years’ and ‘Greenwich’

A Day in St Woolworth’s is Better than a Thousand Years

While reading the fine print
on the frozen flathead and salmon,
The Voice of Woolworths
emerges from the PA
to announce Lest We Forget.

In reverential hush, no trollies push,
and my gaze freezes on fine-print specials.
Grandfather and grandfather’s brother
appear in their WWI uniforms.
One is being buried at sea off Gallipoli.

The silence ends with “Lest We Forget”.
and by the door, a refurbished sign
doubles down on the ethical supermarket,
lauding the local custodians of the land,
some of whom might shop here.

What will be said in aisle eleven
if the son of man returns?
Woolworths’ Voice of the Preacher
may advise us to repent
but not forget to scan our Rewards Card.
They have a pre-recorded trumpet ready.

Ivan Head



That Soviet-era clock
from the Greenwich trader’s stall,
boasted a barometer
that read the war as cold.

Its weight evoked an isotope
and streamlined tin-plate curves
wrapped it in Chernobyl
when electricity was free for all.

The windowless Bank of England
boasts lions-rampant on its walls.
They guard a mound of coin,
since Locke said money is all.

The museum of the marquesses
is filled with gilded clocks,
trophies from old Europe’s
Napoleonic tick and tock.

The drawing-rooms are filled
with cabinets of Limoges,
but the corridors hold the armour
for all the blood that spilled.

Ivan Head


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