Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Identification (by Roger McGough)

So you think it’s Stephen?

Then I’d best make sure

Be on the safe side as it were.

Ah, there’s been a mistake. The hair

you see, it’s black, now Stephen’s fair…

What’s that? The explosion?

Of course, burnt black. Silly of me.

I should have known. Then let’s get on.

The face, is that a face I ask?

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 that’s his.

I recognise the studs he hammered in

not a week ago. At the age

when boys get clothes-conscious

now you know. It’s 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 don’t allow him to smoke you see.

He wouldn’t disobey me. Not his father.

But that’s his penknife. That’s his alright.

And that’s 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 that’s it.

That’s him.

That’s our Stephen.


  1. Simplistic and sad, just brilliant!

  2. I know!

    I love this poem... but it's scheme is such that I always miss out a line or two when I'm trying to remember it.