• Vol. 05
  • Chapter 05

History lesson

Armies grow from sown teeth. If that is a myth
it is true that my granddad shed a few at El Alamein,
spat a few more as he waded the waters at the Landings.
He came through it all intact, more or less. He was one
of the lucky ones, or so he said.

My nan at home, making ends meet, keeping any good stuff
for the babies. Going without steals enamel, dentine, calcium.
No wonder she taught her children to brush morning and night,
to drink full fat milk for healthy bones.

My grandparents weren’t much given to chatter or loose words.
They carried on, never talked about those years, kept their peace.
Thanked God for small mercies, thanked Labour and Bevan
for a fresh set of teeth - a pound a pair on the new NHS.

I remember how those dentures kept company
on the dressing table in matching glasses,
I remember the bubble-gum pink of the plate,
the yellowed incisors, canines, molars, crowns.
I remember the fizz of Steradent.