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The Somme 1916

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  • The Somme 1916

    I have no grave
    Fate and shell
    have denied me of a place to rest
    I have a name
    Engraved high on the Menim Gate
    Stand on tiptoe to find
    Amongst the many
    Those from Eton’s fields
    We from city slums
    Joined in unlikely union
    Answered the call of the patriotic drum
    The women who gave
    A kiss to the brave
    A white feather for the hesitant
    The innocent marched to the old songs
    The few that returned did not sing for you
    We stand on the fire step
    Above us the bank of earth and bones
    We call for pity, and are given rum
    The guns fall silent
    Cordite mixed with the stench of fear
    On the duckboards below
    A trench rat scuttles for safety
    Old faces on young shoulders
    Those who live with their demons
    Those who are indifferent to them
    Those who long for a snipers bullet
    A free passport to oblivion
    Light stars on the lifting dawn
    We climb into hell
    Do not pray for no one is listening
    God has turned his face in disgust
    Now I wander Flanders fields
    I am in the wind that brushes your cheek
    A whisper of twenty thousand voices
    Listen, can you hear?
    Somewhere another drum is beating.

    Monday11 November the day we in the UK remember our dead of two world wars. The Battle of the Somme 1916, 20,000 dead on the first day.

  • #2
    Wonderful tribute piece, John. Thank you. It was a pleasure to read.


    • Cari
      Cari commented
      Editing a comment
      Thank you for reading and for your comment. I always look forward to your comments, they are much appreciated.
      Though I served in the British army for five years, 2nd Para and two more years in Africa, you will never hear me glorify conflict of any kind. My hero’s are the nurses of Great Ormond Street, a job I know I couldn’t do.

      Thanks again,
      Last edited by Cari; 10-30-2019, 11:13 AM.

  • #3
    Thank you for this. It's a little too early in the afternoon here for me to be so sad and angry already, but "Stand on tiptoe" got me. The image of a child searching for father's name on the memorial is one I'll not forget.

    I thought the last line was also especially powerful. I was anticipating some relief at finishing the poem - not because it's not wonderful, of course, but because the reality and the consequences of so much pointless destruction are evoked so clearly I was becoming overwhelmed. But, no, no relief. Just the sound of another drum. Well-done.

    I'm going to read this to my children on the morning of the 11th.
    Last edited by Poldy; 10-31-2019, 12:09 AM.


    • Cari
      Cari commented
      Editing a comment
      Thank you for reading and for your kind remarks, I think it’s a brilliant idea to read the poem to your children. Their pounded with so much pressure to think that conflict is just game for heroes whereas the reality is far far different.