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Two popular and long-established collections of  war poetry of the
First World War

Minds at War
A comprehensive
anthology of poetry of the First World War. All the greatest war poems of Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon and war poems of over 70 other notable poets. All set in the context of the poets' lives and historical records. With historic photographs and cartoons.  Edited by David Roberts.
 400 pages £15-99 (UK)



Out in the Dark
Anthology of
First World War poetry recommended for students and the general reader.
19 poems by
Wilfred Owen
, 27 by Siegfried Sassoon and over 90 more war poems by 45 significant poets including women writers. Contextual information and basic notes on many poems. Illustrated.  Edited by David Roberts.
185 pages - £10-99 (UK)



Falklands War Poetry cover

WAR POETRY 2009

Poems and poets on this page

"Lucy" - Still I Remain - Waiting for a soldier to return from Afghanistan
 

Lisa Tourtelot - I bleed green

W Gabriel Dinkha - Victims of War

Jordan Hodgson - I ask not for peace

Mark Vine - The Eternal Soldier

Tatiana Retivov - a poem about Kosovo, a poem about Afghanistan

Eliaz Cohen -The Barrier Crasher

Elisha Porat - Khamsin on the Hills & Tribute to Amir Gilboa

Bradley Shane  - A Soldiers Plea

Janet Hedger - In Whom do I Trust? About the US Marine Corps' challenging lifestyle

Colin Beckford - Heroes


Still I Remain

Who is this man, that can pull a trigger,
and end a life without so much as
the quickening of his heartbeat?
What do his hands grasp now I wonder?
Cold metal, a Commando dagger,
whilst the memory of his soft touch,
still aches on the surface of my skin.

I may not know who he is, but my heart does.
It shouts his name with every beat,
and grieves every second that we’re parted.
It knows every inch of his skin,
and can see the edges of his soul.
Each beat a metronome counting,
the moments until he’s safe in my arms.

I didn’t know that fear like this was possible.
But it has become my everyday companion.
I’m waiting for him alone in the darkness,
like a princess locked in a tower,
whilst I spin my fear into hope and,
my love and prayers into a suit of armour,
to keep him safe.  Still I remain.

"Lucy"
February 2009

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Lisa Tourtelot
Lisa Tourtelot introduces herself and the poem. She has provided some notes to explain the special language that marines speak at the end of the poem:
"Part of what I like about this poem is that it is basically unintelligible to anyone who is not a female Marine.  We are a unique few and the fact that this poem is written in our language drives home the sense of separateness.
April 2009: I am a soon-to-be graduate of Political Science from the University of West Florida trying my hand at creative writing.  In addition to political science, I have taken courses in creative writing, theatre, Latin and I am a nationally awarded public speaker with a specialization in impromptu speaking.

I volunteered to try my hand at Officer Candidate’s School for the United States Marine Corps and promptly
got fractures in both of my legs in training.  I need surgery, waivers and a two year waiting period to reapply for the program, but, a Marine in my soul if not in the Corps, I am not willing to give up."

Update, December 2009:  Lisa finished her Bachelor's degree this past summer and is now enlisted in the US Marine Corps.
December 2016.
Lisa
has since served five years in the Marines as a Combat Correspondent, including one tour to Afghanistan.

I Bleed Green
(You know you're out of uniform, Right?)

The days will bleed together, Long and steaming.
Thick cammie material will make you puddle.

Mud and green war paint will infect your pores.
Kevlar is unnecessary,
your regulation hair is a suitable antiballistic shield.

Never, under any circumstances, admit pain.
Run until you vomit.
Run until bone breaks through skin,
no other injury is acceptable.

Do not waste free hours with useless sleep.
Use the time to IP, polish, prep and study.

Your weapon is your life.
Know every part of it.
What is her serial number?
How do you clear her chamber? (TAP RACK BANG)
How clean are her working parts?

Make no mistake:
Your weapon might be female,
but you are not.
You are Candidate.
One of approximately 70.
If found passable,
you will become one of approximately 40.
Only the Spartans survive that long.

You will learn to live with hairy legs
And athlete’s foot
And upper respiratory infections
And sleeping at the position of attention
And wading through face-high mud.

Marines eat mud.
And babies.
Oorah.
Get some.
Kill Kill Kill.

Remember these terms:
Head. Rack. Deck. Bulkhead.
Squared away, good to go?
PT (gimmie some).

One. Two. Three. Four.
I LOVE THE MARINE CORPS.

Lisa Tourtelot
2009

Notes provided by Lisa
"IP"- Irish Pennant, the little strings that hang off buttons, button holes and seams.  To IP, as a verb, means to use scissors or a lighter to remove the strings.
"TAP RACK BANG" is a memorization tool taught to Marines for fixing an M16 that won't fire, taking corrective action.  "Tap"- to tap the magazine, to shake loose rounds that might have become twisted in the magazine.  "Rack"- to pull the bolt to the rear, to release any rounds that might have misfed in the chamber.  "Bang" simply means to pull the trigger, thus making sure the weapon fires correctly.

"Marines eat babies" is a joke among Marines.  The legends told about Marines can be so ridiculous that naturally we have to take it to the next level, haha.
"PT (gimmie some)" is a cadence.  The last three verses are basically a compilation of cadence and "war cries" that can't really be explained beyond what they literally say.

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W Gabriel Dinkha – Victims of War

A mother describes raising and loving a son only to lose him in war. The author writes, "I am a 38-year-old Assyrian female who lives in Sydney Australia." (July 2007)

Victims of War

She carried him for nine whole months
Not once did she complain,
The Lord had blessed her with a son
Her boy was worth the pain.
She gave him life – the greatest gift
She’d sing him off to sleep,
Singing songs her mother sang
For hours in her seat.
She watched him as he learnt to crawl
And clapped when he learnt to walk,
She smothered his face with kisses
When he finally learnt to talk.
She cried when she sent him off to school
Her boy had now turned five,
She remembered the day that he was born
How quick the years passed by.
At times he’d come home after school
With blood stains on his knees,
She’d scold him when his pants were torn
"My Son, STOP climbing trees!! "
She couldn’t stay upset for long
He was her pride and joy,
At night she’d close her eyes and pray
"Dear Lord – please watch my boy."

The years moved on her son grew up
A man he had become,
She instilled in him her wisdom
To teach him right from wrong.
She lay in bed awake at night
Her eyes glued to the door,
She worried when he came home late
Her country was at war.
She knew one day the time would come
When she would say goodbye,
She’d send her soldier son to war
And pray he would not die.
That day arrived so quickly
She felt so sick inside,
Her son was being drafted
Her sadness she could not hide.
She held him in her arms so tight
As she said her final words,
"If heaven decides to call your name
Pretend you never heard".
He sent her letters when he could
She’d read them and she’d cry,
She hadn’t seen him since he left
But at least he was alive.
But then one day the letters stopped
She got a call instead,

"Madam – WE REGRET TO INFORM YOU
YOUR SON HAS BEEN FOUND DEAD!!
The words had blurred her vision
She collapsed onto the floor,
The little boy with the bloody knees
Was now a martyr of war.
This mother’s hair turned grey that night
She had no will to live,
She’d given God her flesh and blood
She had no more to give.
Millions of mothers around the world
Have made this sacrifice,
For the sake of barrels of oil
They’ve paid the ultimate price.
How many more do we have to lose?
As world leaders play these games,
How many more must sit and wait
For that bullet with their name.?
WORLD LEADERS – SEND YOUR KIDS TO WAR
LET THEM FIGHT FOR YOUR BELIEFS!!
THEN MAYBE WHEN YOU LOSE A CHILD
YOU’LL GIVE US ALL RELIEF!!

W Gabriel Dinkha
Copyright © 2007 W Gabriel Dinkha

 

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Jordan Hodgson – I ask not for peace

I am an American college student who has much to say & no one to listen.

Another cold stare into the night.
He had honor,
Now dead in the sand.
No one to keep his body warm,
But the red, lifeless sand.
Where is the honor?
All I see is blood.
All I see,
is war.
I ask not for peace;
I ask for war as a last resort.
I ask for war when peace has been tried a thousand times.
For a thousand rejections are better than the pain of losing one Human being.
Not an American, not a Taliban.
But simply to avoid the cold black stare.
Fight not with honor, but with justice.
Fight not with a sword, but with compassion.
Speak not to your ally, but listen to your enemy.
These are the words which will fall upon deaf ears
As men and women around the world pour their blood into the sand.
Never to be held again,
Never to be cherished.
Wasted---in the name of what?
All I see now is a cold black stare. 

Jordan B. Hodgson
2009

Mark Vine – The Eternal Soldier

Mark writes;
The lyric below has just been recorded by Taloch, the lead singer of the famous Celtic folk band, The Dolmen. (Winners of the New 7 Wonders song writing competition)

I have for some time now been incensed by the governments’ reluctance to treat and care for our brave troops who give their all for their country and so, I wrote these words which Taloch put music to.

I am the eternal soldier; I’m there when you need me
Fighting for your liberties down every century
Standing on the front-line, bleeding for your cause
Just a name on a memorial, at which you never pause.
I halted the Armada, stood my ground at Marston Moor
I was in the line at Minden and I heard the Zulu roar,
I was in the square at Waterloo and fought the fearless Boers
And I was gassed in the trenches of the war to end all wars …….
I piloted a Spitfire, stormed the beach at Normandy
Froze to death in Korea and I yomped to Port Stanley,
I was bombed to hell in Basra, under fire in old Kabul
I am a deadly Exocet, a politician’s tool. 
Yet all I ask is wages and three square meals a day
To lay my life upon the line, to live in harms way,
But it’s the same old story, when your victory is won
Then I’m just an embarrassment, with a loaded gun.
And the debt is soon forgotten, when the nightmares come to call
When each night I hear my best friend scream and helpless, watch him fall,
I’m told to snap out of it, I’m told big boys don’t cry
And I’m left to drink myself to death and on a cold street die.

I halted the Armada, stood my ground at Marston Moor
I was in the line at Minden and I heard the Zulu roar,
I was in the square at Waterloo and fought the fearless Boers
And I was gassed in the trenches of the war to end all wars …….
I piloted a Spitfire, stormed the beach at Normandy
Froze to death in Korea and I yomped to Port Stanley,
I was bombed to hell in Basra, under fire in old Kabul
I am a deadly Exocet, a politician’s tool. 
I march on your decision, anywhere in this wide world
In places where our flag had no right to be unfurled,
And I’m not asking for riches, I want nothing for free
The only thing I’m asking for,
Is a measure of dignity.
For I am the eternal soldier; I’m there when you need me
Fighting for your conscience down every century
And I’m standing on the front-line, bleeding for your cause
Just a name on a memorial, at which you never pause.

Mark Vine
(Written in 2007)

Exocet - a missile used with devastating effect in the Falklands War

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Tatiana Retivov

Two poems sent to this website in 2007(!), introduced by the author.

Greetings,
Enclosed are two war poems, the first one has to do with Kosovo, and I meant  to dedicate it to Charles Simic, but I don't know him. I think I tried to send it to him back in the 90's and never got a response, so I guess he didn't like it. Perhaps what prompted the poem was some essay he wrote about
 whether or not to return to Serbia. The second poem was generally written  about the war in Afghanistan, the old one, not the current one. Though I  stuck the image of "Homeric" waves in it, not exactly appropriate in terms  of terrain. In any case it goes way back to the early 80's.

I just saw you  on CNN, and was prompted to send these of to you.
I am a Russian and American poet, I write in both languages. Was born in New York, am currently living in Ukraine. 

Best Regards,
Tatiana Retivov


Entreated by Athena

Stealing his swift-footed way
among the rubble and desecration
unleashed by "the blood-dimmed tide,"

the Poet returns, at best
as unobserved as Telemachus,
well-hidden behind his own

ancestral maps of disenchantment:
A weary refusal to bear witness.
Hark, he says, this teller of tales

none too psychopompous, let the cuckoo
bewail her lament through the hazel wood,
I have no wind left for winged words.

For the falcon has flown already
numerous star-crossed messages
from one end of the bridge to the other,

until only a medieval spectre loomed
between time and space, a yawning gap
now festering like an abscessed tooth.

Meanwhile, the epic yarn of Serbia
drags like some broken record
sparks flying with mortar, the current

formulas of a third war.
(What's so third about it is
unutterable, with or without gusli.)

Which is why the Poet must always return
come winter, with anima in tow--
to be held voluntarily captive

by a southeast village that imbibes nightly
a mountain of hoarfrost, exhaling prophecies--
to rewrite its charmed future in song.

Tatiana Retivov

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Retreat

It is the hour of rest in the City of Ruin. Birdlike, the wary retinue
scans the wind-swept plain
until, ears cocked homeward,
their warrior profiles freeze:
Slavic coins minted
in their avengers' eyes.

And oh how the barley-bearing earth groans
under such arsenal of arms.
There, over yonder,
in the midday sun,
shimmering helms
haphazardly assemble
in mourning for their owners.

Such winged words have been hurled
though they cannot convey the silence
of landscape after battle.
For it is then that the mystery
of Homer's purple waves
is revealed as the color
of bleeding aquamarine.

Tatiana Retivov

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A poem from Israel. Information about the poet follows the poem.

The Barrier Crasher

For Ali Yichya, my teacher on being appointed ambassador to Athens

 
At this dusky hour, at the foot of Mount Gilboa
when I am dressed in drab against my will
to join the guards of the roadblock
(the Jalama border crossing, at times a roadblock, at times
a road ascending from the Afula Valley to the Dotan Valley
and to the road of the mountain and the fathers)
at this hour I think of you Ali Yichya
how you came all warm and paunchy rolling to us,
little settler-children of Sabia and Thamania in the land of waking Samaria,
the dancing gutturals
of the language of Hada’d.

At this dusky hour your people are returning, Ali, the people that are in the fields
and I stand in their way, with all the security checks
and those gutturals that came then to our little mouths
Return searching for a language.

At this dusky hour almost anything is possible
when my heart sings Arabic and goes out to the woman
whose onions have spilled out of her sack all over the place
and how in her proud silence she collects them whispering
one of the songs
that you taught us Ali Yichya from Kara Village in the virgin Elkana
which is being built
[and I didn’t know that you and your village have roots in our hills
that your ancestral mound which was deserted on an el-juma day
miten snin ago (they found in the mound a pot of meat and bones left on the coals)
near enough to be seen by us] 

At this dusky hour I see you Ali Yichya
carrying the prayer shawl flag
in the heights where the Greek gods of the Acropolis dwell
and how in an excited-Arab-soul all my cuts are healed
in the one soul

Here at the roadblock silence descends now
and only the gold skin-of-gathered-onions still broadcasts a smell
that song and the smell
of the embarrassment of the woman and the soldier standing over her
(meaning me)
and ana mushtak- lak ya sid Ali

At this dusky hour, at the foot of Mount Gilboa
Soon the day will fall on its sword
And a cobalt blue evening will rise
With no moon.

Pretty Jenin and her daughters once again will curl skyward
The allahu akhbar in the wonderful mak’am
And I will send fingers of a Hebrew Priest
To my loved ones who are in the mountains
And to you as well

Eliaz Cohen

Translated from the Hebrew by Larry Barak

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About Eliaz Cohen

Eliaz Cohen, poet and social worker, was born in Petach-Tikva in 1972. He  is one of the leading figures in the renaissance of religious poetry and arts in Israel.

He is an editor of the "Mashiv Haru'ach" journal of poetry , and author of four published collections of poetry.

Cohen was the recipient of the "Prime Minister Award" for literature in 2006 and the "Avichay Sabbatical Prize" also in 2006.

He is a member in kibbutz Kfar-Etzion, married and a father of four.

 

Elisha Porat
A new poem which may refer to experiences of war.


 
Khamsin on the Hills
 
Do you remember that
khamsin on the hills? The branches
full of thorns sent to us by
the thirsty wild plums? The
blazing rocks and the scent
of toasted pine needles?
The blush that rose on your cheeks, and the drops
of your gentle sweat? My soul
reached out to you then my love.
And I did not guess there that such
would be our lives: crowns of thorns,
and the heat of the khamsim, and the blush of
the sweat of love. And the sorrow that eats
at us from inside for the speed of elusive
time and the lightning vision of
painful memory, flying away.

Elisha Porat
2009

Translated from the Hebrew by Cindy Eisner.
Khamsin on the Hills Khamsin on the Hills
Copyright of poems and texts belongs to the authors. Published here with permission.
Translated from the Hebrew by Cindy Eisner.

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Bradley Shane

Although not a soldier, I have be re-enacting war events for over 20 years depicting military life of both a 18th and 19th century soldier.  I have heard and read the stories of war all my life.  It is to the memories of the fallen that I dedicate this poem.
 

A Soldiers Plea
If only all the dead could cry out In a single roar
And say don't send a mother's son
To die a death in war

They'd say look at how we lay
Without life or limb
The bullet that tore our breast so wide
Has caused our eyes to dim

The flash of a musket
The crack of a bullets speed
A small piece of death is sent
To splinter bone and bleed

The cannon sends a rain of death
Of steel and grit and bone
Pay no heed to the dying man
Or take pity on his moan

The orders are always the same
Move forward boys make haste
A yard of ground a league today
Don't think of the horror and the waste

The war boys, the wars for all
God's on the side that's right
But the devil owns the battlefield
When you hear the cries at night

A drummers roll a steady beat
A bugle plays a mournful tune
A sword is dipped in honor
For the mothers son who died too soon


Bradley Shane

18 Dec 2008

 

Janet Hedger

A civilian imagines a moral dilemma that must face many soldiers when occupying another country.

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In whom do I trust?
 

Me mate and me
out on patrol
eyes peeled
for any unrest,
scanning the roofs
for snipers bullets.
A car cruises past
thumping hearts
till it speeds on by
danger imagined.
A rock – skirted
for fear it’s real,
every step
a threat.
A typical day in Iraq.

Then in a vision
comes a woman
in black,
laden with goods
fresh from
the market.
Weighed down
she stumbles
dropping her wares.
Quick as a flash,
unrehearsed
my mate races -
across the dusty road.

I meet her look
stomach churning
something’s not right
something is wrong
the body is old
but the eyes are young.

I scream
GET B-A-C-K!
as the
water melon
EXPLODES
in his hand -
into fragments
of man – woman
into pulp of
flesh and bone.

I rock myself
to sleep
that night
full of
questions
full of doubt.

TELL ME; how
can I defend
when I know not
who to trust?

TELL ME; how
can I fight
when I achieve no good?

TELL ME; how
can I fight
in a war that’s unjust?

HOW can I kill
a woman
in cold blood?

TELL ME;
all you
politicians back home!

For I do not know
I just don’t know anymore
I just don’t know.

Janet Hedger

19 December 2009

Colin R. Beckford

Fearful eyes looked upwards at the thousands of arrows streaking
across the sky, the sun playing its reflective rays on those deadly tips.
The targets for those shafts of death held their wooden shields aloft
as the prayers flowed freely from their lips.
The lucky ones died instantly, wooden missiles smashing through their
bodies, splintering bone, and piercing their racing hearts.
Screams from the wounded, hard to ignore as the arrows stopped them
playing their valiant parts.
The vanquished were fearful of the expected slaughter, which they
understood would be their fate.
Victors hacked and slashed at their beaten foe, spilling their blood,
just to satisfy their hate.
Looting and burning, soaked in enemy blood, they sang songs of triumph
at the death of their foe.
On the return to their homeland, every one of the valiant men
would be hailed as a returning hero.

Frightening sound of an explosion, the fortress demolished, iron
projectiles smash into its walls.
Men defended their stronghold bravely, but arrows were no match for
the power of the cannon ball.
When sturdy walls were reduced to rubble, the defending army took up
their swords and defiantly they charged.
They hoped that this new enemy would lose their courage and retreat,
but it was them that were stopped at a distance of four hundred yards.
The enemy had new weapons, in the form of muskets that spat out deadly
and unseen lead balls.
The defending brave men carried on their charge, then in great numbers
they began to fall.
The smoke had cleared, the roar of the guns had ceased, the valiant
army looted the bodies of their foes,
Then sang songs of victory and cheered each other knowing they would
be hailed as returning heroes.

They will never know what happened, it would make no difference even
if they did.
They will hear no sound, or sight of the enemy that is to destroy
those who were content just to love and live.
Husbands, wives, parents; children, lovers, animals, birds and sweet
smelling flowers reduced to ashes by the unholy rain.
Unlucky survivors will be condemned to live their pitiful lives,
mutilated and in terrible pain.
Towns, cities and countries will have very few left to cry, or to
morn.
Ill fated offspring of those few will suffer unknown terrors as they
begin to die, from the moment they are born.
The senders of these weapons of Hell from hundreds of miles away will
be uncaring as the life’s blood of millions, instantly ceases to flow.
They will stand upright and proud, as medals are pinned on the chests,
of these valiant vanquishing heroes.

Colin R. Beckford
2009

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