The war poetry website header image 

Back to Main Index

First World War Poetry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

e

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To top[ of page

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To top[ of page

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To top[ of page

THE WAR POETRY WEBSITE

War poetry -  July 2005

War poetry by soldiers, airmen and civilians. -  www.warpoetry.co.

Titles

Poems from America

Jason Morris, USAF

Edward Curtis, ex USAF

Destructive Hands

Honourable Confusion

Our Heroes Falling

Alicia Cross

Fallen Soldiers

Poems by Carol Bergman

In Transit

Into The Mountains

Occupied

The Cave

The N'th Degree

The Vet

War Zone

Poems by Bill Taylor

There is nothing more sad than our joy to be home

Grief dressed up

Penumbra over easy

Silence, the most brutal kind of grief known to man

In search of a water-filled truth

 

Poems from the UK

Poems by  Cesca M. Croft

When the men came back

Lottery of Birth

Andrew Drummond, in Kosovo

A wind blew us away

Into the moss

The case for injustice

Poems by Ann-Marie Spittle

Night Raids

Goodbye to Youth

Poems from Canada

Poems by Alexis Child

Anatomy of Survival

Dishonourable Murder

Conspiracy of Silence - Part IV

Backlash Massacre

See also the Kosovo war poetry section

 

Poems added to the warpoetry web site July 2005

Andrew Drummond

I was teaching in Skopje when NATO started bombing Kosovo and Serbia. I was displaced as a result of the conflict, leaving for

Andrew Drummond

I was teaching in Skopje when NATO started bombing Kosovo and Serbia. I was displaced as a result of the conflict, leaving for Greece while it looked pretty bad on the ground. Here are two poems about those few days: between 23rd March and 27th March 1999.

Another two poems describe the death of a person at a cafe Skopje, 1999. The other the torture of a young boy in a police station in Tetovo, 1997 based on witnessed events.

A wind blew us away

by Andrew Drummond

 

I wanted to go to the cafe

But a wind blew me away.

I was ripped out of my nicotine patch;

My walking boots, still smoking,

Walk the streets,

Trying to find their feet.

Insects fill the night sky;

Not glow-flies now but fighters.

The fat man sings

And the merry-go-round begins again.

Taxis jostle and elbow for airspace.

Institutions fall.

A wind blows us south.

A wind blows us away.

The barometer reads red.

Shopkeepers mourn over their stock.

Bus routes quake; trains stall.

CNN is live.

Paranoia thrives.

Shengen visas fall upon their swords.

Appointments fall from the sky.

Friends leave and friends stay:

Instinct rules over altruism.

The fat man sings the blues.

A pyramid of panic surrounds a people.

Baseball caps stoke the fire.

Banks laugh.

Reason will not approach this fear

Distance presumes innocence.

Death takes precedence.

 To top[ of page

Into the moss

by Andrew Drummond

Digging down deep into the moss

Into the roots of loss,

Lies a troika: tubers, tumuli and tumult

The smashed face of analogue time reads

March 23rd: broken futures, splinter here;

Separate here.

You're leaving home

But you don't need dad to open the door

Locked doors are gonna blow

Do not pass go,

Don't pause to collect yourself

No time to take back library books

Your better half is staying

Ever to ride the no.26

Down Partizanska

To enjoy a spring;

A summery hue

In hills around Skopje

Your reward for a hard winter

Half a million search for homes

As a chill Balkan wind ices

Into our hearts

To deny the warmth of a season

That never came

The Roots of loss

Weeping out of the roots of loss

Walking on phantom limbs

Among the ghosts

Of futures lost

And wasted partners

Tracing the curvature of divorce

No new warmth leads me

Down, down into the past

Of causes known

And meanings hidden

Numbness thaws

Into the pain of knowing

It cannot be lived again

To top[ of page

 

The case for injustice

No Drita, Amir, Burim, Gezim

No bumpty-headed white hat

Messing with my kids

Your schools are like a cancer

That spreads in our organs

An illness that verifies

Our racial supremacy

Your Granddad was one of the men

My granddaddy hated

The day you and the Germans

Took over our village

Time to deliver

The promise in my heart

To fight for my fathers

To do my part

It's hard case to argue

The case for torture

But if we stick together

None's any the wiser

No regrets or tears to follow

The boy he deserves it

His pathetic cries flow downstream

Like burned out cars

No regrets no tears will flow

That boy, he earned it

His pathetic scars

Like the rivers burned out cars

A beating to invigorate

The murder we investigate

The shooting of our colleague

Deep in your village

A beating that delivers

The freedom to revenge

The death of my partner

Shot by your father

Time for you to consider

Your ethnic flavour

A name that sounds stupid

Your blood the wrong colour

Time to reconsider

Your ethnic manifestation

Of a shit-coloured illness

At the heart of creation

No Drita, Amir, Burim, Gezim

No bumpty-headed white hat

Messing with my kids

Time to reflect on

The twist in your name

The twist of your soul

Your sad incarnation

It's a hard point to argue

The case for torture

But if we stick him back together

None will know any better

A beating that administers

A cultural truth

That there's more to policing

Than policy briefing

No frequency to drown out

The nonsense you scream about

Expressing an injustice

Your suppose in your hatred

No frequency to drown out

The nonsense you scream about

Expressing the injustice

You suppose in your hubris

With no one to remonstrate

To steady nor regulate

The punishment coming

From hand, fist and baton

A beating that resonates

In the local debate

'Is it better to shoot Shiptar

Or simply to hate?'

No frequency to dampen

The sounds of the cries

Colliding with the cars

Drowned by the river

Cigarettes are not death. Death is death.

I can't write about his death

There's nothing to say

One minute he's there

The next blown away

Stronger than caffeine

More circular than a table umbrella

The blast circumference

That forms round the victim

The pavement hangs it head

Small talk goes dumb

They call, 'call the police'

But the police don't come

Coffee goes cold

Bills left unpaid

'Where did you park the car?'

Underground; far away

To top[ of page

Poems from the UK

Poems by  Cesca M. Croft

How the poem, When the Men Came Back, came about

This came to mind too, remembering how it was, after the men came back from Atlantic duty [the Falklands War], wondering about the attack on the Belgrano; and those who still suffer from post traumatic stress disorder - sounds of fireworks upsetting them, programmes on TV that drag it all up again, Remembrance Day services that bring the anger back. Then the medals. What were the medals for ? The futility of it all.

So this is what I saw when the men came back from the Falklands . . .

When the men came back

They say that time is a healer.

Time numbs the mind,

blanks out the memories.

But then you hear the fireworks

and in the dark of the night

you can still die ~ of fright.

Just the sound ~ of the bangs ~ all around

like guns, triggers the memory,

the fear, the cold sweats,

of being fired at ~

Up in the sky, over the sea,

no self defence, in foreign territory ~

The crew is gripped with fear,

nerves in shreds, mouth deadly dry ~

We could be dead soon,

we could plunge to the icy sea,

disappear under the Atlantic,

never to be found again.

"Lost at sea"

R.I.P.

Back home again

for a week or two ~

We're at a party

It's so unreal

I curl up in a corner,

head in hands.

I can be me again

the real Me,

the husband, the father,

the neighbour.

This is Me.

Now I can cry ...

gentle arms hold me close.

What I have seen

won't go away.

It's still here, 20 years on,

and every firework

that you casually let off

proves that time

is not a healer.

Cesca M Croft

To top[ of page

Watching the programmes about Auschwitz on tv, seeing how anybody who was different was sidelined by the Nazis, made me think about how people are racially discriminated against from all angles. After wars, people are also pigeon-holed as from the enemy gang.

My father cycled round NW London looking for a doctor to come and help when I was born. I was bleeding internally. It was a Sunday afternoon and none of the English doctors would come out and help. We had a German surname. Then my father found a Jewish lady doctor, who came along and saved my life, with an injection of vitamin E.

Would English doctors now dare to refuse to go and treat a Muslim baby ? Can hate do so much to people that they take it out on a new born baby with the wrong surname ?

Do English Jews still face anti-Semitism in this country ?

The year my father died, at 67, he told me to aim to make the world a better place, to encourage ecumenical conference and tolerance of other religions, because if we took the best qualities from each religion and denomination and founded a global ethos of spirituality, we could fight evil that way; and maybe then wars would stop, never again a holocaust such as at Auschwitz and Treblinka. Yet there was evil in Rwanda and Iraq, and many other similar occurrences after Hitler and the Nazis in the 20th century. When will humankind ever learn ?

Hence the following, not well written :

1947 Lottery of Birth

Doctor Josef escaped the Nazis

Escaped to Outer London.

After the War

A knock on her door:

"Please come

Please help."

Someone asking me

Someone calling me Doctor -

"Your name, Sir, your name ....

Ah but that is German ..."

"Yes, yes, but from long ago,

Two centuries ago !!

It is just our name -"

"So, you too are victims.

How cruel was this war."

"English doctors will not help -

My baby daughter, new born,

Will bleed to death -

Please come."

"Come, let us go -

On our bikes !

I have the Vitamin K.

Your baby's life

We will now save."

And she did. They did.

Thank you Dr Josef.

So I became my father's

Second daughter.

 

Cesca M Croft

26 January 2005

For more poems about the Falklands War click this link.    Falklands Page

Poems by Ann-Marie Spittle

Goodbye to Youth

Wave us off to our deaths

The fresh faced children of your country

What horrors will we face in lands of far away?

Dare we imagine the fates that await us?

We are all smiles and caresses

And full of songs of possible triumphs

The band plays and we feel unstoppable

And the old soldiers nod at each other

In a secret code of knowing

The training that seemed so hard is now a memory

And we bask in the light of our adulation

As the ships leave port and sail to our future

And into Catholic Hell

We have no time to catch our breath

As overhead the bombs and bullets fly

We run and all to soon the realities flood in

As does the rainwater and mud that surrounds us

Moans rise up

And calls to home wail on the wind

And we are numb from it all

The rain feels warm upon the skin

Compared to the feelings that we have

And then a voice that has drummed into out very core a reaction

Calls us back to the world and we are at war

And we see the truth that our callow youth has clouded

And we know why the old soldier's eyes look distant

When our uniform meets his gaze

The day's rage on, and then the years

But what difference does that make in Hell

For each day is the same

Lives lost, friends lost, hope lost

Until the letters come

Home is the lifeline of sanity

The Oz of our lives

Oh that we could be lifted up and returned there

But on go the barrage and the blood

Then the day comes

And we are to return to the land of our fathers

But when we return we are shadows

And our families must light us back home with their love

And bring us out of the Hell of war

We return men

But at what cost to our souls?

And as we walk the streets on Remembrance Day

We remember the battles, and our lost friends

And are the callow youths we were once more

 

Night Raids

The whining rise awakens us from dreams of better times

Zombies in RAF uniforms follow the dimming light to outside

Where the dark leviathans of the empirical kingdom lie in wait

Their charioteers take their seat and gee up their horses

While engineering creatures run about caressing and checking its skin

The beast awakes and we are almost left behind in its wake

Hard to run in boots that have been laden with the blood of many battles

But we are spurred on, and our heels take Mercurial flight

The reader of the stars tells the charioteer our course and we are away

Treading the light fantastic of the sombre darkness

A great water masses below and we know the battle will soon begin in earnest

Now as we approach the torched citadel of the Germanic races

We make our peace with whichever power rules our life

And hope that we die a good death, if we have to

The boy shows his fear as he mutters unintelligible fears

But soon he is calm, for he has trained for this moment

The torches appear and the Angel of Death takes his place

And awaits the charioteer's word

And reigns fire on the once walled city below

The dim lights flare and the beast is awakened

Eating streets as it gains in hunger

We sigh knowing our job is done

Then the leviathan lurches and bucks

Fiery retaliation for our deeds fly into the air

We spur on the beast that has taken us so far

Hoping its love for us will get us home

And there is the land of our forefathers

And we hear the call of the breeze

And we are safe and back in the arms of our comrades

And we are happy and gay

And we forget our occasion as if it was a mere phantasm

To top[ of page

Edward Curtis

 

Destructive Hands

 

When will we take care

Of these cherished lands?

When will we put a stop

To our destructive hands?

 

The answer is a guess

At best, and estimation

For no one can truly predict

What forces of destruction

Await the children of tomorrow

 

The man in the shop asks why he is poor

I give him no justification; just stare at the floor

There's nothing I can say while millions are spent

On the weapons of destruction for which no one seems to repent

 

All I ask is "when will we take care

Of these cherished lands?

When will we put a stop

To our destructive hands?"

 

And I wait for an answer in the silence of sorrow

Seems like I'll be waiting for a long time to follow

Honourable Confusion

Amongst the confusion

Of our land and our affairs

Valiant young men

Fight each other's glares

For the same, yet opposite reasons

They do what is asked.

But their leaders lied

And their time has passed

To create the myth of enemies and friends

When each is facing a fellow man

They long for the day

When punishment arrives

For this dishonourable deception

Surely someone must be tried?

Our Heroes Falling

The fields fall silent

The last hero is falling

Kissed by a bullet,

That fatal romance

Man has eternally with war

Yet, it is never complete.

There is always some object to obtain

Some people to free.

Fears and revenge is all we can see.

The last hero has fallen

He lays silent, clutching the Earth.

Wanting his mother

To quench his forlorn thirst.

The dead never move

Yet they move us all

 

We sent them abroad

For a debated purpose

They fought, they fell

The ground no more than a bloody well

At least the fields are now silent

Generations of soldiers gather round

Completely still

Moving us all

We should let them tell the tale

About war to the full.

All heroes have gone

They sleep away from home

Mothers morn their only son

Is this what we want?

To top[ of page

Poems from Canada by Alexis Child

About Alexis Child:

 

Alexis Child hails from Toronto, Canada; horror in its purest form. She

works at a Call Crisis Centre befriending demons of the mind that roam

freely amongst her writings. She lives with a Shaman and Calico-cat child

sleuthing all that goes bump in the night. Her fiction has been featured in

The House of Pain, Lost Souls, Screams of Terror, and Top International

Horror 2004 published by Rainfall Books/BJM Press. Horror fiction is

forthcoming in Scream-4-Me Fanzine. Her poetry will appear/has appeared

online and in print in such publications as Blood Cookies, Decompositions,

The Dream People, Gothic Fairy Tales, The Harrow, Horror Carousel,

Lunatic Chameleon, Midnight Lullabies Anthology, Ragged Edge Publishing,

Realm of Darkness, Simulacrum, Skin and Bones, Tales of the Talisman,

Unspoken Dreams, Whispers of Wickedness, and elsewhere.

Visit her website at: http://www.angelfire.com/poetry/alexischild/

Anatomy of Survival

Auschwitz gave birth

To a nation

Multiplied by scorn

What was strengthened

Wouldn't exist without hatred

Grind our bones into dust

Cease to oppose us

We shall rise again

Deified, in annihilation

© 2005, Alexis Child

Conspiracy of Silence - Part IV

 

The sky of survival

Shaped of shadows

A perplexing vision

Strangely considerate

Pulls the trigger

On the skull of dreams

 

The troops are coming

Leaving behind cemeteries

Thousands are killed in a day

For taking what isn't theirs

Only death surrenders to peace

Waking up the day from dreaming

 

copyright 2004, Alexis Child

 

Dishonorable Murder

 

Leaving home she will visit

Her husband or the grave

Marry or be buried

The clan's honour is at stake

 

A woman disgraced

Killed at the prison gates

Her rotten body cut off

Blood washing away shame

 

Hands raised in prayer

Inside the Mosque

Murder is murder

In the eyes of God

© 2003, Alexis Child

 

Backlash Massacre

 Infidels spew forth life's blood

Upon Solomon's gold

A seven-headed Beast

Consumes simian wastelands

We flee from stained regrets

Swallowing the Raven's anticipation

Heralding death without a pact

 

Impaled in the stillborn lover

From my sleep to someone else's

Is a stringless violin

Elysium fields shall bow

Before us once again

Paying homage to plague merchants

Passing on their crimson masks

 

copyright 2005, Alexis Child

To top[ of page

Poems from America

Jason Morris, USAF

17 7 05

Remember Their Sacrifice

 

September 11 was a clear day

As terrorists attacked family and friends

They awoke to avenge this cruelity

Lest their sacrifice be forgotten

 

October 7 was a brisk day

As American troops fought beside Afghans

They drove Al Quida from their bay

Lest their sacrifice be forgotten

 

March 20 was a fresh day

As US fighters took on terrorist Iraq

They pushed back the dark and evil play

Lest their sacrifice be forgotten

 

Lord God above

Be with them daily

Lest their sacrifice be forgotten

Lest their sacrifice be forgotten

 

By Jason Morris

Captain USAF

Operation Enduring Freedom

To top[ of page

Alicia Cross

Greenfield, Mass, USA

Fallen Soldiers

Men lost to more than just death

lost to the pain that lives inside

inside their minds, their hearts.

The pain of those who survived

with the memories of those who didn't,

the memories that haunts

that never heals, that never leave.

That live within ones soul

always wanting out

but never real getting there.

As they try to fight their way back

to what they once knew

to those they once loved.

They slip further and further away

into the ghosts of their past.

The screams echo through the emptiness

of the holes left by the guns and bombs.

With every BANG! they fill less and less,

almost unrecognizable to them selves

and all the rest they once knew.

With the return of those who fought

comes more sadness from all that love them.

After all is done

they are never as they were before.

To top[ of page

Poems by Carol Bergman

Are these poems or micro-stories?

Carol Bergman writes:

The poems were written post 9/11, in the midst of Iraq, and during two long years of editing mostly war zone stories for my anthology of stories by humanitarian workers. I'm a child of refugees from the Nazi genocide, and came of age—in the US—during the Vietnam War.

 

Carol Bergman is the editor and compiler of "Another Day in Paradise; Frontline Stories from International Aid Workers, foreword by John Le Carre, Earthscan, 2003. This anthology was published in Korea in 2004 and will be translated into Chinese in 2005. She is a journalist whose feature articles, essays, and interviews have appeared in The New York Times, Newsday, The Daily News, The Amsterdam News, Cosmopolitan, Family Circle, Child, and many other publications. She is the author of two film biographies (Mae West, Sidney Poitier), a memoir, "Searching for Fritzi." Her creative nonfiction and literary fiction has appeared in Aim, Willow Review, Onionhead, Potpourri, The Bridge, and other literary journals in the US and the UK. "Objects of Desire," published in Lilith and Whetstone, was nominated for the 1999 Pushcart Prize in nonfiction. She teaches writing at New York University.

In Transit

The railroad station was a hut in the middle of a forest, a fortress, a way-station, as capacious as a barn, unheated, soiled. The floor was compressed sand, sifted and layered, like the silt at the bottom of the river, moist and dense with cadavers and ash.

A man and a woman sat on a bench in the station and waited for the train which would take them on the next phase of their journey. They had been walking for days, eating berries and ferns. The ferns were bitter and caught in their throat. The man spit. The woman choked and heaved. They had sent their children ahead.

They were hungry. The woman wanted an apple. She had been dreaming of an apple. She was embarrassed by her hunger. Her hair was blonde and her face wide. A friendly and open face, a smile without teeth from the months they had been on the road sleeping in shacks, scrounging for food, like wolves.

The air was fetid and still. A desert in the midst of the forest. Their children would be returned to them, or not returned to them. Who was responsible? Who would know their fate?

A vendor appeared at the station with a cornucopia of fruits: pears and apples, primarily, temptation and hope. And with the scent of ripening flesh, the woman's appetite returned. She asked for the green apple, and thought of her children sleeping under a duvet on the other side of the world, and bit into the apple.

In ordinary times, it should not be difficult to locate a source of sustenance, a zone of safety, ones' children, a train.

Into The Mountains

It was cold and dark, the dead of night, as he approached the house. He understood the danger and was wearing camouflage, she thought. The war was nearly over, but there was still danger. Guerrilla fighters, land mines, renegades with their own causes tunneling through the mountains into the villages, and taking them over.

Sometimes life went on as if it were normal. That night, her husband had gone to visit friends. He had been challenged to a game of chess. She watched as he scurried down the path like a ferret. They were all animals now, so the analogy came easily to her. She even smiled noting his descent, in and out of hedge grows, head down, arms swinging wildly. Occasionally he stopped and turned over rocks to search for worms, a source of protein, and also fennel. Fennel, with its biting licorice flavor, had become his favorite food.

So he was gone, loosed into the war torn world below, when her former lover arrived at the house. She stepped forward to greet him. The camouflage was an illusion, she now realized. A precaution she had expected, given their past history, it was now abandoned. He was wearing a navy blue coat, army issue, and a powder blue woolen cap that matched his eyes. His face had aged, the once smooth skin was now rutted with experience. Cigarettes had roughened his voice. He was no longer insouciant, he was grave.

She put her arm around his shoulders in welcome and continued with him up the path into the mountains. There was a cave there, a safe haven, where they could talk. Nothing had changed, everything had changed. He held a powerful flashlight and led the way.

They began their ascent in silence, like old friends who are completely comfortable with one another, or strangers who have never met before. It was impossible to conclude one or the other by observing them.

The trail was narrow. Tall grass spires swished over them with a rush of air. A small deer crossed their path and began grazing a berry patch. She wouldn't be able to stay for long. She didn't know if this mattered or if her longing for her lover mattered. This was not her lover, he was someone else, someone she barely recognized. He had been gone too long and she had taught herself to forget him. He reminded her of an actor she had once admired.

The flashlight illuminated the path, and then the cave. Was that a smile? She wasn't certain. The chess game would be over soon. Thoughts of her husband compressed her chest, paining her. It would be necessary for her lover to continue walking. She would make the descent back to the house in the dark without him.

To top[ of page

Occupied

The room is cluttered when she arrives, and there is a vinegary smell. A natural cure for cockroaches, she heard someone say. Pour vinegar into the cracks, let it evaporate at its own speed. Is she evaporating?

She takes off her Gortex jacket, folds it neatly, and places it mindfully on the bed. Gray army issue wool blanket. She's noting all the details. Her mind is occupied.

How long will I stay? Where are my books? Where are my clothes?

If only she could ask these questions. If only someone could answer them. But the door is shut, she is utterly alone, and the corridor is silent. The room is illuminated by one light bulb hanging on a wire.

I am empty handed. I have no belongings.

This is where her thoughts stop. She sits on the bed next to her jacket.

The past is baggage enough, if only I could make use of it.

She walks to the window and contemplates the vista. Mountains in the distance, fields abutting the brick wall, shacks and barns. All in the present tense. Dogs, horses, plows, a well in the center of the village.

The Cave

The lived in a cave in the mountains. It was well furnished.

The ground was mined, but this was of no consequence. They had purchased special shoes. These shoes detected mines within a six foot circumference. One foot slowly in front of the other foot. Progress was slow, but this also was of no consequence.

The terrain was a zone of safety. Each day had become predictable.

In the morning, they searched for food and water, berries and leaves. Their digestion had reverted to this vegetarian diet. They followed the bears' spoor which guaranteed a meal by midday. Their stomachs rumbled as they remained focused on their task. They had no words to explain this.

There were other caves in proximity, all well furnished. Clusters of men, women and children. They might have been relations or neighbors, but this, also, was of no consequence. As an observer, one would say they were people of disparate and unknown association. They had re-formed themselves. They had no history.

The N'th Degree

She is more woman than any woman. When she arrives, she is fully clothed, though it is the Garden of Eden. Her black dress grazes her ankles. Her blouse is pulled tight in a criss cross around her bosom. She is wearing leather sandals and, most notable, there is a large coin hanging around her neck on a leather tong. Her husband bought her this in a market in the Sudan, she says.

"How can money be purchased?" the reporter asks.

It is then she begins to relate her story. The setting is inappropriate, unkind. Yet, she is compelled to continue. She wishes to reveal a truth.

The reporter has a clipboard with questions and notes. He listens attentively. Children are playing underneath the table, her children, but she is not distracted. She is old enough to be their grandmother.

"Do you think we are doing better?" the reporter asks.

She takes out a box of cigarettes, blue lettering on a white ground.

"My husband..."

Too soon, the tape recorder runs empty. Smoke fills the room, seeping into everyone's clothes. The reporter looks disgruntled.

"I have been out of the country for twenty years," she continues "I have never seen Seinfeld. My clothes are out of fashion."

She gets up to leave, hugging a folder to her chest. Fully extended it is now evident she is small in stature, diminished by the atrocities she has witnessed in the camps.

The Vet

She began a conversation with a street vendor. She needed socks. Did he have any bargains? Yes, he said, three for five dollars.

Although they were too thin, she decided to buy them. It was something about the man's face as he stepped closer to her, the way his eyes were out of alignment. He had high cheekbones and sensuous lips. His skin was roasted almond. His hair was flecked with gray. He was tall.

When she asked him if he was a vet his one good eye opened wide. Had she noticed his military cap before or after her question? Then she asked him how he was doing. Why ask this question, she wondered, unless I am prepared for an answer.

He'd had a bad winter confined to his wheelchair and his apartment. He was always cold. Now, as they were talking, he was standing up without crutches. Can you tell I am an amputee, he asked.

Another customer was trying on a straw hat. And yet another held a long skirt up to her waist and swished it around. From what countries had he gathered these totems of pleasure? How many women and children had he killed? Did it matter now?

War Zone

The sound of jets roused her from sleep. Outside, the still wintry overcast sky lay speckled and worn. Now there were navy blue fighter jets overhead in re-configured flight path. They approached and then veered away, their engines thrumming and spewing fumes as they cut away. She watched with incredulity as one plane spun downward nose first into the settlement of houses just yards away from her windows. Only poor people lived there and it was as though they had been targeted by the machines designated to protect them, those enormous navy blue planes with white markings and red lettering. Eerily, there was no sound or smoke as the buildings swallowed the plane's body and then its tail. All was in stasis until hysteria and then motion erupted. Ambulances arrived. In the distance, a woman with curly black hair was sunbathing on a sand dune, oblivious and inured. It's a scene she'd witnessed before: Sevastopol after the Liberation, that famous photograph from May, 1944, men and women in the rubble of a shattered city catching the sun, and smiling

To top[ of page

Poems by Bill Taylor

There is nothing more sad than our joy to be home

"And there's no light to see the voices by;

 There is no time to ask  - he knows not what."

                                   Wilfred Owen

 

She held her hand our for me,

a dream I did not want to end,

 

her path and mine refused to cross

before the great call to arms,

 

I, deep within myself, knew that it

was highly unfair for her to marry a man burnt as badly

I was, for no matter how many decoration and ribbons placed upon my chest,

 

the flesh left over from a blast in the direction

of my hurling body,

 

I saved three white boys from dying,

yet, when I came to Magnolia Sweets,

 

I could not watch the movie shows downstairs with

the white man,

I was directed by guards to the balcony,

 

when I took a job mopping floors at that Richmond hospital,

they complained that my looks scared off the patients

and their families,

 

so I was switched to the midnight shift,

quiet,

I saw her, my first love,

 

holding the hands of one of those men I'd saved,

incidentally, as a matter of fact,

 

neither recognized me underneath a new face

the VA had given me,

 

passing right in front of me,

there was nothing more I could offer either

of them,

 

changing my mop water,

I punched out for the night,

 

walking into the cold Richmond air,

heading home,

 

riding the bus, at the back, I stood

letting the white ladies have my seat,

 

there are no thank you's for those of us

cursed with this hideous dress,

 

our only salvation

perhaps, is to realize,

 

that even a point blank wound

does not change the color of a man

skin,

 

enough to be treated like a warrior

in need of a woman who loves him

 in spite of himself.

 

  Copyright, William "Wild Bill" Taylor, June, 2003

 

Grief dressed up

Grief dressed up a long time ago when

she came on a crowded streetcar,

dream cakes, and indigo,

a feast for those with happiness,

count the number who ride invisible horses,

to homes far away from mountain lands,

the gentle river breeze slaps me like a caress

she gave me,

long away from the silliness

of youth's good-bye,

hell-o today,

cantankerous sort,

I'd rather be with her,

riding over treetops

glistening for something

lost,

yet even more present

than the campfire's shoot.

Copyright, William "Wild Bill" Taylor, February, 2004

 

Penumbra over easy

by Bill Taylor

We danced with the Cherokee virgin from Budapest,

lying down drunk before the blinking eye,

the telephone does not say,

 "this is one great kid!"

 She defiled me in the bonnie wee hours of the dewey

decimal dawn,

 Take me home, Solomon name-dropper

vanity of vanities,

 One great kid!

red on red,

black on black,

 what becomes of the blinking eye?

 Cool man, lonely with the shared bed of

a blood sucker from paradise,

 One great kid

eating popcorn

dusty beach landings,

 alone,

consequential blink,

for the final time,

 let's half another drink,

shall we, General Westmoreland?

 Copyright, William "Wild Bill" Taylor, March, 1999

 

To top[ of page

Silence, the most brutal kind of grief known to man

"Go tell the Spartans, thou who passest by,

That here, obedient to their laws, we lie."

--Simonides

Come up from the fields dear Papa

come in the house where it is warm,

go and get mother,

tell her to bring dear sister's yarn, too,

Until then, I cannot tell you anything,

so please hurry here as best you can,

By the look on my face and the new company I keep,

the news that comes in this house is not that good,

lament,

tears for the fallen,

lament,

there is a telegram from the War Department,

our Luke has been killed,

they will try and send his remains to us,

when the fighting stops in that part of the world,

where nobody gives a damn!

until then you have the condolences of a grateful nation,

and a wheel barrow with tweezers

to find your broken heart.

Copyright, William "Wild Bill" Taylor, August, 2004

 

In search of a water-filled truth

I was the soldier supreme

rough and ready

with the sleeves of my sunburned arms

carrying an appropriate tattoo

and short filtered smokes

kill or be killed

this desert is hot

anything that moves at night is enemy

fire in the hole

doesn't that child have a gun

what an empty canteen in search of cold water

don't worry about my buddies around

the campfire cry

it only takes one to kill you

dude

let no man beware

charge charge of

the light marine brigade

Kipling was no veteran

let other bewares

the price of victory is a politicians soul

and a sentry's nightmare

plus the head of a little boy

forever lost.

Copyright, William "Wild Bill" Taylor,

June, 2004

To top[ of page

End of page.

www.warpoetry.co.uk