Roger McGough

(November 9 - 1937 / Liverpool / England)

The Identification - Poem by Roger McGough

So you think its Stephen?
Then I'd best make sure
Be on the safe side as it were.
Ah, theres been a mistake. The hair
you see, its black, now Stephens fair ...
Whats that? The explosion?
Of course, burnt black. Silly of me.
I should have known. Then lets get on.

The face, is that the face mask?
that mask of charred wood
blistered scarred could
that have been a child's face?
The sweater, where intact, looks
in fact all too familiar.
But one must be sure.

The scoutbelt. Yes thats his.
I recognise the studs he hammered in
not a week ago. At the age
when boys get clothes-conscious
now you know. Its almost
certainly Stephen. But one must
be sure. Remove all trace of doubt.
Pull out every splinter of hope.

Pockets. Empty the pockets.
Handkerchief? Could be any schoolboy's.
Dirty enough. Cigarettes?
Oh this can't be Stephen.
I dont allow him to smoke you see.
He wouldn't disobey me. Not his father.
But that's his penknife. Thats his alright.
And thats his key on the keyring
Gran gave him just the other night.
Then this must be him.

I think I know what happened
... ... ... about the cigarettes
No doubt he was minding them
for one of the older boys.
Yes thats it.
Thats him.
Thats our Stephen.

Comments about The Identification by Roger McGough

  • (4/28/2018 4:27:00 PM)

    The Leader made me laugh out loud but this one had me in tears. (Report) Reply

    2 person liked.
    2 person did not like.
  • (3/1/2018 10:05:00 AM)

    Does Anybody Know When this was written? (Report) Reply

  • Susan Williams (2/23/2018 10:08:00 PM)

    Part Two. We parents can see anything we want to hold death away- or to hold off any proof that our children were not exactly like we thought they were. But inside we know- -our child is dead and nothing is never going to change that horrid fact (Report) Reply

  • Susan Williams (2/23/2018 10:07:00 PM)

    Part One- -A nice poem? Really? It is about the most heartbreaking poem I have ever read- -the father does not want this body to be his child's body- he fights recognition tooth and nail- -and to give himself some fragment of comfort he says the cigarettes must have been some other boy's and his son was being thoughtful enough to hold them for him. (Report) Reply

  • Kumarmani Mahakul (2/23/2018 11:21:00 AM)

    Beautiful poem with nice diction. Thanks and cogratulations for being selected as the poem of the day. (Report) Reply

  • Edward Kofi Louis (2/23/2018 8:44:00 AM)

    Trace of doubt! ! Thanks for sharing this poem with us. (Report) Reply

  • Glen Kappy (2/23/2018 7:37:00 AM)

    Throughout the poem the apostrophes are missing from most of the contractions. The vocabulary of the speaker seems too literate in places to explain it. A transcription problem? The poem tells of a tragedy— may the like not happen to any of our children—but sometimes the errors, the problems, with language raise barriers to appreciating what might be good in a poem. -GK (Report) Reply

  • Bernard F. Asuncion (2/23/2018 12:41:00 AM)

    Roger, such a great poem... congrats for being chosen...a huge 10+++++ (Report) Reply

  • Sanjukta Sahoo (9/4/2017 11:58:00 PM)

    The face, is that the face mask?
    that mask of charred wood
    blistered scarred could
    that have been a child's face?
    The sweater, where intact, looks
    in fact all too familiar.
    But one must be sure.
    Nice poem.
    (Report) Reply

  • Mehta Hasmukh Amathalal (12/1/2016 2:36:00 AM)

    Nice poem. . good presentation....10

    From birth to death

    The god has everything
    From birth to death
    The power to stop breathe
    (Report) Reply

  • Mehta Hasmukh Amathalal (12/1/2016 2:36:00 AM)

    Nice poem.. good presentation....10

    From birth to death

    The god has everything
    From birth to death
    The power to stop breathe
    (Report) Reply

  • (6/30/2016 1:05:00 PM)

    the poet concentrates on a lost youth. (Report) Reply

  • Michael Cook (5/20/2015 5:24:00 AM)

    Very thought provoking and inspiring (Report) Reply

  • (5/18/2010 3:39:00 AM)

    Report mid=5643825
    ur a fag jo, stupid motherfucking bitch Already Reported Reply

  • (5/18/2010 3:33:00 AM)

    Jo Oates, were u using drugs when you wrote that comment? (Report) Reply

  • (5/18/2010 3:29:00 AM)

    Jo Oates, were you using drugs when you wrote that comment? (Report) Reply

  • (1/18/2009 8:15:00 PM)

    I love this poem; it is amazing.
    Roger McGough is one of my favorite poets, and for speech arts, I have done both The Identification and Waving at Trains.
    This poem is absolutely incredible;
    Roger McGough is an extremely talented poet.
    (Report) Reply

  • (11/6/2008 10:49:00 AM)

    This poem is so touching!
    My drama teacher introduced this poem to my class and everyone was touched by it. It maked me wonder how Roger McGough wrote this poem with such detail and how he got the idea of making a poem about Stephen.
    I am right now learning the fourth stanza of this poem for my drama assignment and I find it easy as I am so into this poem. It's easy to remember something if you are interested in it.
    This poem is one of my favourite poems I have ever read!
    (Report) Reply

  • (1/31/2008 8:59:00 AM)

    Micheal~ This poem was introduced to me in 1986 at school It has affected me throughout my life, influencing choices I made. It is because of this poem, I have never done drugs, or joyrode or played with my life. I live a full and happy life because this poem showed me I was not immortal and that the greatest pain is for those we leave behind. For me, it was about how important it was to make good choices with the life we have~to have lived less or stupidly would I think insult all those who leave so soon. Especially when they leave so selflessly. I wanted you to know that for me this poem has more than meaning. For me, it has given positive direction. (Report) Reply

  • (5/10/2007 2:57:00 PM)

    Good luck Tasha with the reading It's years since I last read this poem but it still means a lot to's about a 14 year old schoolboy killed in a no warning bombing in July 1972 in Belfast.Stephen was working as a grocery delivery boy as a summer holiday job.The bomb exploded as he warned shoppers about the suspicious car in which the bomb had been planted.Why I know all this is that Stephen was my best friend at Primary School which we left in 1969.It's good to know the poem still has meaning so many years on. (Report) Reply

Read all 24 comments »

User Rating:
3,7 / 5 ( 69 votes ) 24

Read this poem in other languages

This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.

I would like to translate this poem »

word flags

What do you think this poem is about?

Read poems about / on: father, hair, child, hope, children

Poem Submitted: Friday, January 3, 2003

Famous Poems

  1. Still I Rise
    Maya Angelou
  2. The Road Not Taken
    Robert Frost
  3. If You Forget Me
    Pablo Neruda
  4. Dreams
    Langston Hughes
  5. Annabel Lee
    Edgar Allan Poe
  6. Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening
    Robert Frost
  7. If
    Rudyard Kipling
  8. Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep
    Mary Elizabeth Frye
  9. I Do Not Love You Except Because I Love You
    Pablo Neruda
  10. Television
    Roald Dahl
[Report Error]