TJ (17th June 1958 / England)

The Picardy Poems

Not Silent but Screaming (02.04.07 - Island View & Bruebach)

“The War to end all Wars”….
“Dulce et decorum est” …

Stirring sentiments and epitaphs all:
Familiar footprints
In blood-black sands
Upon body-strewn beaches
Stretching the endless coastline
Of all human history
Half a heartbeat,
Barely a breath,
From bare bones
To bullets and bombs:
Here, all the way to the Hereafter.

The fear-stained fire-step:
One command to Nomansland
To do or die, [more likely: do and die].
Dumb, yet not silent, before their shearers:
Screaming their last gasp of life
From lead-riddled lungs,
To their holy mothers on Earth
Or not-so-holy Father in Heaven
Who could let this happen:
Whoever would have them.
Whoever might save them….
…If only they had that long to frame the thought….

Easy for me to say:
I wasn’t there [thanks be to them].
Haven’t seen war.
Haven’t felt fear leak hot down my leg.
Haven’t heard a man plead to be put out of someone else’s misery.
Haven’t smelled the red-acrid stench of the charnel-house
And known it would never leave my nostrils.
Never had to clean a man’s guts from my blade
After rattling it around his ribcage
To find and cut the last cord holding his body and soul together
Like some sort of sick midwife to the afterlife.

Never had to pray:

O God, please God, forgive me,
Though I know exactly what I do.

O God, Dear God, forgive me,
For those souls I’ve sent to you.

I’ve never had to live with death for the duration:
So what the hell do I know………..?

I know those who knew the fields of France
Are all but fallen now:
Are barely, but a handful;
Ten old men with tales to tell.

I know those who knew the fields of France
Are all but fallen now…..
But their lives are living legacies
That can keep us from that hell.

Off the Hook. (02.04.07 Island View & Bruebach)

In Picardy I saw the wraiths arise
From every hallowed foot of greenfield peace,
Unscrewing themselves slowly,
Solider by soldier,
Spirit by sprit,
From the coffins death never afforded them,
To spiral in their misty millions
Before the sun of my generation.

No ranks.
No dog-tags.
No uniforms.

No sides:
No ‘Us’;
No ‘Them’.

Under the earth truth taught them
What they already knew full well
But were forced to deny for nations’ pride:
That they were all the same:
The same under the uniform;
The same under the skin.

They’re quietly impatient now:
Marking time at the end of their time;
Waiting for the last of their legion
To close the final few gaps in the ranks
Before marching towards what we owe them.

I wonder…..

When they’re gone:
All gone;
When the last of the very last has left
And the direct line to the living
Finally rings off the hook forever,
I wonder…….

Will we really be any the wiser about war?

(.....for the few soldier survivors from WW1......)

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Comments (2)

The Picardy Poems should be put in every anthology of war poetry - they leave the reader almost 'fear stained' so exquisitely painful was the reading of these horrors. Dedicated to the few who survived and are still alive is another reason to have this read in schools and public places - - the poet's mind did not die with the W.W.1 Poets - - such poetry as this asserts the fact that we still have excellence in poetry today - - thank you for this Tony.
Poignant and powerful, the spotlight on the political stupidity and the waste. You place us in the trench with the victims; Fortunately we can climb out unscathed. As always, extremely moving, Tony.