Roger McGough

(November 9 - 1937 / Liverpool / England)

The Identification


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.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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  • Rookie Regan Mcmillan (1/18/2009 8:15:00 PM)

    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. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Ye Won Nam (11/6/2008 10:49:00 AM)

    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! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Jo Oates (1/31/2008 8:59:00 AM)

    Micheal~ This poem was introduced to me in 1986 at school It has affected me throughout my life, influencing choices I made. It is because of this poem, I have never done drugs, or joyrode or played with my life. I live a full and happy life because this poem showed me I was not immortal and that the greatest pain is for those we leave behind. For me, it was about how important it was to make good choices with the life we have~to have lived less or stupidly would I think insult all those who leave so soon. Especially when they leave so selflessly. I wanted you to know that for me this poem has more than meaning. For me, it has given positive direction. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Michael Winnington (5/10/2007 2:57:00 PM)

    Good luck Tasha with the reading It's years since I last read this poem but it still means a lot to me.it's about a 14 year old schoolboy killed in a no warning I.R.A.car 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. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Tasha Eden (5/9/2007 2:16:00 PM)

    Hello, We Are Doing This Poem At School For A Devised Theamatic In Drama GCSE. Its A Wonderful Poem And Made Us Think About How To Portray It. Im A Female But Am Playing The Part Of Stephen, Which Is Hard In More Ways Than One! But I Do Praise Roger McGough For How He Portrays Different Aspecst Of Life. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 14 Points Josie Whitehead (4/15/2006 2:38:00 AM)

    Excuse me, but there are a lot of apostrophe's missing from this poem. They are important. Other than that, this is a touching poem. We have gone through this in our family. My husband's brother, Brian, was killed in an ICI explosion. He lived for 5 days, charcoal to the bone, and kept cruelly alive on morphine. For my husband, who had to identify him afterwards, this poem has opened up again old wounds. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Astral Shepherd (12/16/2005 2:59:00 PM)

    amazingly authentic in its tone, the shock of it all at losing a child. heartrending, really when i slow down and let these words, dropp by themselves...when i read and not let the emotions make tears, when i slow down (Report) Reply

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