In the Desert

As the Taliban surged back into Kabul

and the international correspondents

looked more exhausted with every broadcast

but not as exhausted as the refugees


I thought of my young second cousin Matthew,

one of the four hundred and fifty-seven

flown back from Afghanistan in sealed coffins

to Wootten Bassett and then, in Matthew’s case,


to York for his military funeral

in the Minster, after which the gun-carriage

paraded him on a tour of the packed streets

before beginning its sedate procession


to the cemetery while we, the mourners,

plus vanloads of soldiery sped off ahead

at a pace Matthew would surely have preferred,

with sirens and flashing lights, to get there first;


all of which might have been designed to persuade

his parents that being blown up by a bomb

at twenty-three was a worthy destiny –

an opinion they are perhaps revising.