by Pauline Keith

First, Charlie Chaplin as a runner bean ?
there are seven of him. You can’t tell
which bean he is. They all have hats
and turned-up shoes, wear tight jackets
that are pulling, wrinkled slightly.
These look-alikes don’t make the catalogue ?
maybe Charles Jones who photographed,
arranged them side by side, had never
seen Charles Chaplin’s trademark pose?
The selectors don’t have any such excuse.
They chose the big brown onion, faultless,
looking like ? a big brown onion.
Then, the war-wounded, second stage:
rescued, sea-rocked back to Blighty,
held in hospital – rawly shocked and ill,
no longer knowing how they’ll walk.
Instead, the catalogue displays them
at their third stage, wearing false legs
and stoic faces for the camera.
It leaves out the first photo: all seven
balanced on a long seat, side by side.
In blank space beneath the bench
one footless leg compels the eye.