Maggie Butt

History Tin

Mum’s button tin was round as years,
purpled with pansies, an open-sesame
of dazzle, sorted on the kitchen table
like forty greedy thieves. A treasure trove

which whispered childhood in the slump
a world where hunger slouched in doorways
or flu snatched young men from their clothes
where ornament came small and circular.

Mum’s button tin held her world war
carved quiet in black bakelite,
and older, pearlised, horn and jet
cut from rag-thin frocks of grandmothers

whose lives were darned by gas-light
raising sons to fuel the great machines
of war, buttoning their great-coats
to walk the long walk out of sight.