The Identification Poem by Roger McGough

The Identification

Rating: 3.8

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.

Edgar Alan 18 May 2010

Jo Oates, were u using drugs when you wrote that comment?

10 79 Reply
Edgar Alan 18 May 2010

Jo Oates, were you using drugs when you wrote that comment?

14 72 Reply
Michael Winnington 10 May 2007

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.

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Regan Mcmillan 18 January 2009

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.

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Ye Won Nam 06 November 2008

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!

27 28 Reply
Chinedu Dike 27 June 2022

A poignant piece well articuated and nicely brought forth with artistic brilliance

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Sylvia Frances Chan 27 June 2022

CONGRATULATIONS being chosen by PoemHunter as The Modern Poem Of The Day. Hoorray! This I put to my Favourites

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Sylvia Frances Chan 27 June 2022

A very sad poem about identifying a son (Stephen is his nme) . Most parents do not realize that the dead lying in front of them, is really their son. Psychologically is this the non-recognizing phase. It is indeed too tragic for words! 5 Strs Topscore!

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Chinedu Dike 15 January 2022

Heartrending piece......

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Jon Holloway 09 August 2020

I love Roger McGogh even more than I loved him him 45 years ago. Along with the other Liverpool poets I was taught that there is amazing flexibility in the English language. I was taught that you can use words like paint.

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Roger McGough

Roger McGough

Liverpool / England
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