Amid the shell boom and thud of bullet,
biking to meet the morn, a student nurse,
Jaqueline Nöel, rode to the front alone.
What kept her going to the beach front hut
was a red two-piecer, a sister’s gift.
It was the last gift Marie-Denise gave,
dead in an air raid, to her twin sister.
Let past checkpoints for her Red Cross, whistling
squaddies tucked her into their war myth
of a girl on a black bike riding past
at the start of the Normandy landing,
refusing to believe the Germans would
let a civvy so close to the killing.
A nurse, a student nurse who lost a life,
her sister´s life, can’t win it back again,
but she could save the lives of others, lost
to tide and barbed wire, and that is what she did.
Recruited by the landing British troops
whose boats, boats, boats, and planes flown overhead
at Ouistreham beach so amazed her then.
She met her husband tending the wounded.
Jaqueline Thornton née Nöel rode her bike,
an old black thing with white panniers. On
past the bombed ruins of seaside hotels,
machine gun nests, and the sand dune dying,
she rode and found the costume in the hut,
where she had left it out the day before. Now,
it lies in her wardrobe, and she rides on.