Isaac Rosenberg 1917

(Poet and painter born in Bristol 1890, died on the Western Front April 1918. London art studio photo-portrait / National Portrait Gallery / 1917)



The lips are full, fish-like,

a deep gulped breath in-held against the body’s bitter will;

bottom lip swollen, mouthy as a carp,

or a trumpeter’s lips bilged from over-practice.


The eyes expressionless, an inured glaze,

a mildewed middle-distance empty stare,

the glassy focus a shell-shattering nowhere.

The sardonic rat has long riddled through


this seeing, the image stored and stowed inside,

the mind already blown, brimming,

and everything now numbed, anaesthetised.

Later, a dawn raid, your bantam-body unidentified.