! T H E R E M E M B R A N C E R S Poem by Michael Shepherd

! T H E R E M E M B R A N C E R S

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and it’s difficult to say exactly
what they do, or
how useful that task really is

for like the ideal rulers
of ancient China,
the better they do their job,
the less we notice that

you could say, they are
they hold memories for millions of people:
they remember people, good people, poor people,
and honour them as we should wish to honour them;
they remember heroes and the dead;
they remember history; and how
things used to be done, when they were done well;

it is their duty, over a whole lifetime,
to remember what is so deep in all our hearts
that we have forgotten that we know it;
that we could hardly express it;
yet, as those stories of every nation tell,
as King Arthur is said to arise from the sleeping soul
in times of need – this is what they remember for us;

they remember what it means to be a nation
when others have forgotten
but as they have no executive power
they can only advise and consent
when asked

they draw to themselves, good and wise people
who help them to remember
to remember for the rest of us

and such is the mystery of what they really do
that we laugh about their private lives
over our morning newspapers
while they set out for another day
full of official engagements
of being seen to remember something
and we remember having seen them
and how we waved our flags and gave them flowers
but may or may not sense
what they remember for us

and as they move around,
in and out of cars and sometimes planes each day
receiving flowers from children awed by the moment,
shaking hands, receiving in a few seconds our clumsy response,
respect; admiration; recognition for duty done; even, love;
they must remember all that is unspoken, unformulated,
in those clumsy moments of the heart and soul
and that great mind which makes of human beings
families, tribes, nations, humanity
in those we walk with, through our life

for memory is not visible
and what they hold for us, we seldom think about
and we shall never know how much we owe to them
unless they were no longer here for us

they are sometimes called to be called kings and queens
and some are great,
born great, achieving greatness, or greatness thrust upon them
in the holy oil with which status is anointed;

but our gratitude is seldom shown
until their jubilee,
or in time of war
or at their funeral
when we, wearing black,
may celebrate their life, their light,

the remembrancers

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd

Marton, Lancashire
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