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Remembrance Poems and Readings

Edited by
David Roberts

More information about this collection of poems and readings for Remembrance Day and Peace Events

 


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THE WAR POETRY WEBSITE

 POEMS FOR REMEMBRANCE DAY
AND PEACE EVENTS


Remembrance poems with a critical edge


 

Keeping The Distance


Beneath this earth young warriors sleep

Forever more, forever more,

And for what myth was it they died,

Who sent them here forever?

To bury them, so far away

From farm and village, hearth and soil?

We dare not ask of why or how,

We dare not think too hard of them!

We need not question of ourselves,

Of how we let them go so far,

So we may keep our distance safe

Can paint their pictures in our mind

Of how they sacrificed their lives;

Of how they died so willingly,

On land that did not give them birth,


Noblesse Oblige, they sleep the earth.

We know they did not wail or scream,

Nor cry nor piss their pants in fear!,

They did not spill their crimson guts

Through gaping wounds of steel-sliced flesh,

Or stare in numbness at their blood

That pulsed and squirted, stained the soil.


We know they did not weep for mother,

Nor curse their fate nor bawl in pain,

Or seek to find their missing limbs,

While dragging stumps through fiery ground,

Or smelled their own flesh, burning stench!

Nor whimpered soft through blood blind eyes,

As whistling breath through gaping throats

Shot out their life in scarlet spurts.


We do not wish them here at home

To find eternal, lasting sleep,

No, better stay in foreign lands,

Where they sacrificed their life,

No, t’is better they remain unseen,

To keep their distance and our dream

To keep them heroes, sight unseen,


For sure, they died as noble men,

Not terror-stricken sons and boys,

For if this myth were proved untrue,

How could we ever face ourselves?

How could we ever…be so cruel?


Curtis D Bennett



Remember Me

I was once the pride of this country,

The healthy, the young, the strong and brave,

Then I quickly became the acceptable casualty

In my country’s undeclared war

In the name of national interest,

A country where I was too young to vote!


I went because I was still too young

To know any better, though others

Cleverly refused or ran away to hide.

I never once dreamed my own government

Would ever lie to its own people,

But I was mistaken and they did for years.


I fought their war in a hell for one year,

Then came home and found another hell,

Awaiting from the very people and country

Who determined I go in the first place

Then their war, suddenly became mine,

And I was the convenient scapegoat!


Today, I am the broken bodies and minds

Shunted off, out of sight, behind heavy doors

Of VA hospitals and mental wards to die.

I am in wheel chairs and braces, in hospital beds;

I walk the streets; I wander the railroad tracks,

I sleep beneath the stars.


Curtis D Bennett



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(The author's comments follow this  poem.)


What need I the waving flags  


I watch these old men march

bereted and badged

as I was in years long gone.

Though I understand

and will honour their need.

I will never join them.


I need no marching or medals

to do honour to comrades dead

the metal would lie heavy

upon my aging chest.


I find no honour in gravestones

the faces in my memory

are still happy and young

I would rather they were here

growing old, honoured by

their children’s children.


I need no military band.

I keep alive within my soul

the music of my comrades’ songs

They are my morning reveille

and my twilights taps


What need I the waving flags

of these patronising politicians,

and hindsight’s patriots

when these self same,

cloaked in self interest,

barter and sell the peace

hard bought by young lives,

whilst their casual neglect

of our  injured  and our widows

do such dishonour to our dead.


What right have I of medals

For I am here, aging still.

I hold in trust the memories of

such youthful, selfless, sacrifice

their smiles will haunt  me ever.

For as our young soldiers still do.

I have, in scaring grief, carried home,

brave men upon their shields.


Bill Mitton


About the above poem  -  I watch the young men carry the coffins of their comrades and once again I feel the weight on my shoulders as I remember doing the self same thing.  I prayed through my tears that before I died the madness would stop... I now know the folly of that prayer, because I now realise that whilst there are young men and women who believe that they are immortal, there will be politicians who will barter and trade the young's misconception without the flicker of an eye.  -  Bill Mitton





The Abandoned Soldier


The eyes betray the pain

Hollow, empty eyes

A lifetime in one glance

Blinking moist with sadness

In search of understanding

Barely holding back the tear


Alone, standing to attention

A solemn sight for all to view

A stubborn look about the face

Lips taught with embers of defiance

A wry ironic smile

A stoic sense of duty


The glorious dead do not grow old

The living are but vague reminders

Of a soldiers gift and a nations debt

A collective shame unwashed in generations

Putrid and bitter without a voice

Crying out for respect and restitution


Body racked with untold hurt

Phantom pain from near useless limbs

Age has wearied him

And the years condemned

The shadow of a once proud man

Who took the shilling and paid the price


Young men, old beyond their years

Damaged minds in ravaged bodies

Witness to the horrors

Victim of the daily struggle

Stiffened with age and unseen scars

He does not complain, we taught him well


Communities of dead from conflicts past

Stand testament to our human failure

Leaders give no deference to the fallen

Dulce et decorum est…, the oldest lie

Loved ones nurse a heavy burden

Complicit in their fervour


Hand picked like poppies of the field

Blossoms of the poor and disadvantaged

Moulded to be the nations guardians

Hailed as saviours in the morning

Old heroes slowly fade away

Discarded when the sun goes down


In the autumn of our lives

Old soldiers reminisce

Amidst the dreams of death and glory

Two minutes can seem a lifetime

In remembrance of the fallen

A fleeting memory remiss


The promise has been broken

No longer duty-bound

Honour lies bloody on the altar

A sacrificial lamb

The soldier has been abandoned

In a society that doesn’t care


Graham Cordwell,

2007


See Graham Cordwell's personal story and other poems on his page of this website.(Access through MODERN WAR POETRY link on MAIN INDEX page.)


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The Abandoned Soldier is a sculpture created in 2007 by sculptor James Napier





Background information follows the poem. Lest We Forget.


Lest We Forget


What do we forget when we remember

What are the stories left untold

What do we think each November

As we march down that glory road

As we march down that gory road


One hundred million

Don’t come home from war

Another eight hundred million

Who live to bear its scar

Who live to wear its scars


Lest we forget

What they were dying for

Lest we forget

What they were killing for

Lest we forget

What the hell it was for


Democracies never kill democracies

That’s what we often claim

But sometimes we march out together

And kill others in that name

And kill others without that name

And kill others just the same


Lest we forget

What they were dying for

Lest we forget

What they were killing for

Lest we forget

What the hell it was for


What do we forget when we remember…


Owen Griffiths

Copyright


Owen Griffiths


Owen Griffiths is an Associate Professor of History at a university in Canada. His area of study is especially modern East Asia (Japan and China mainly).

He writes: " I have never been to war but both grandfathers (both British) fought in WWI and my father fought with the RAF in Europe and Asia in WWII. My mother worked in a mortar shell factory and a pig farm in England during WWII. My parents immigrated to Canada after the war in 1949, among the many who passed through Pier 21 in Halifax (Canada's Ellis Island). My father was a navigator on the Argus for the RCAF so I lived on air bases in Canada until I was 10.  Professionally, I currently have two main research fields: One, examines how Japanese society from the 1890s to the 1930s became increasingly militarized by analyzing the stories written for children in mainstream print media. The other argues for a reorientation of our systems and tropes of remembrance to include killing and dying on all sides in the hopes of constructing more honest and accurate representations of war as universal tragedy and as a common ground of human inhumanity."


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Harbingers

(From Normandy)


Frail, old men with weathered hands stand,  

Alone, lost on the wide sandy beaches,

Each turning back his rusty mind clock  

Piercing the veil of memories

When they were young, anxious and terrified,

Boy-soldiers in battle fighting for their lives,  

Experiencing the gamut of fear and death

Watching friends died horribly,

Scarring their young minds forever.


Blue beaches murmur waves

Splashing old, rusted war remnants.

A sea bird flaps wet beaches

Where the sea swells and crashes gently on wet sand,

Retreating back erasing all footprints.

The men stare the distance,

At blurred memories through tears.

Trickling down their cheeks dripping softly,

To merge with the sea like before.


They came to say good-bye to their friends,

To a confused past which has no answers.

The graveyard crosses watch in stony silence,  

Stoically from tree shadows on soft meadows,

In eternal military formation fronted by small, flags,

Wind-shivering in the hush of silence.  

Marching the stillness in quiet precision

Protecting the young soldiers buried there,

Frozen in time and death

The old veterans stand awkward, unsure with the dead.

Experiencing those familiar, dreaded, sick feelings

Of remorse, regret, blame, and fault for what happened

To their generation who gave so much for their country.

They have gathered one final time  

To share history, blame and guilt for all eternity

Banding together as one, they embrace the moment,

Experiencing once more, this terrible place of

memories.


And the same salt sea air, still blows up from the beach  

Once inhaled in panic by all the young fighting men  

Mired in the beach mud conducting the senseless slaughter of children,  

Trapped forever in the obscenity and vulgarity of war,

The pain returns for a moment, overwhelming them,

It hangs suspended, as real as yesterday, then drifts away and mellows away.

Now time, history, and denial blessedly blur the horror and inhumanity

Of what they did; of what was done to them.


The War President from America

Mounts the podiums to prattle the virtues of war,

Attempting to rewrite history, to deny war's reality,  

He exploits the moment for selfish means,  

To justify his war as a noble cause, ignoring its brutality,

Thoughtlessly attempting to validate, substantiate, and authenticate,


War's vicious crimes against civilization

Turning the senseless slaughter of innocents

Into a righteous cause, to be proud of and condone..

Turning war into a sound-bite of empty words

Of praise, blessing, glory, and accomplishment.

Something to be proud of, to revel in,

To relish with sacred, biblical rhetoric

From a shallow, self-centered political opportunist.  

Whose meanings and oratory become quickly lost,

His words floating away with the wind, out of relevance, out of touch

Out of context, drifting, beyond the restive crowds.

To fall useless and disappear, in the cold, impassionate mud.

Falling deaf on the ears of the dead warriors

The ultimate, wasted sacrifice, from another generation


It is at this moment, the old veterans  

Eyes mist up, overflow, and tears flow shamelessly


As they at last comprehend all their sacrifice, all their pain,

All their sorrow, all their suffering, all the death,

Did not change or alter a thing, was not a lesson learned

Nor an experience not to be repeated..  

Realizing their friend's painful, brutal, ultimate sacrifice

Was only a necessary evil of Mankind's political process

Which has never changed, and never will,  

For each generation brings anew to the world

Its own self-styled madness of universal death, tragedy and suffering,

In wars to be fought by the young, bright-eyed children of the world  

Unknowingly raised as sacrificial lambs of slaughter,

To be killed and gone forever, for nothing.  

That is why, all Veterans cry.


In this hallowed place of the dead

The lonely graves of war's youthful victims

Who died for a thought,  

an idea, for a cause

Promulgated by selfish, insane men in power

These war graves and cemeteries are Harbingers  

Of the eternal, mindless death cycle of war.  

Young men killed by politicians' words and mindless acts,

Their promise and existence forever ended too soon.

Now, forever sleep beneath the green muffled grass

Sharing the earth with the youth and victims of past wars,

Too numerous to count, to numbing to contemplate,

The dead, as powerless and impotent as the now living  

To change or alter, or detour the inexorable course of madmen,

They patiently wait for the next generation to join them.


Curtis D. Bennett


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Unhappy about Remembrance Days I wrote a poem for Remembrance Days.


I always feel uncomfortable about Remembrance Day services that are held in the centre of London. Partly it is because I believe that the politicians do not really care about the lives they have so needlessly thrown away, and partly it seems that they are using remembrance ceremonies to justify war, to say that the deaths were all in a good cause. But these days the British government is not using our military to defend the country from an actual attack. Instead it is going overseas and bombing people who are helpless and (with a few exceptions, not interested in threatening us).

Another thought that struck me was that those who send terrorists to die in suicide attacks may be not that different from the generals of the First World War who sent young men to die in what were often called suicidal attacks. People will point out that it is the innocent civilians who are targeted by terrorists. But is there really any difference between the innocent civilians and the innocent soldiers of the enemy's side. They are all human victims who die or are mutilated  horribly for no good cause.

We are encouraged to hate the terrorist and praise the soldier, but they are all victims of violence, violence that others encouraged them or others to commit.

Why should we remember or celebrate only those who were sent to fight and kill? I think we should remember all those who give their entire lives to the service and betterment of others.

D.R.



A poem for Remembrance Days


For cause or country

Young men are sent to die.

Young men are sent to kill.

In these nauseous and twisted times

what eloquent twisted truths

gave young men this love of death

and on the greatest negative

heap the greatest honour?


Young men,

equally reviled and honoured

for the death they brought

or the lives they lost,

bring only grief

and deserve only pity.


David Roberts

7 November 2005


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About There will be no peace

The following poem was written in 1999 in connection with the conflict in Kosovo. In 2005 I decided that it was not a good idea to have written the poem in such a negative form, so I re-wrote it as There will be peace. Readers can choose which version they prefer. The new version may be found in the Poems of hope and survival section. D.R.




There will be no peace


There will be no peace:

till attitudes change;

till self-interest is seen as part of common interest;

till old wrongs, old scores, old mistakes

are deleted from the account;

till the aim becomes co-operation and mutual benefit

rather than revenge or seizing maximum personal or group gain;

till justice and equality before the law

become the basis of government;

till basic freedoms exist;

till leaders - political, religious, educational - and the police and media

wholeheartedly embrace the concepts of justice, equality, freedom, tolerance, and reconciliation as a basis for renewal;

till parents teach their children new ways to think about people.


There will be no peace:


till enemies become fellow human beings.


David Roberts

22 July 1999


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Shall we remember what war is?


Shall we remember what war is?


What is war?


In the human psyche

it is the fatal flaw,

a perversion of the human mind,

using our greatest brains to create

outrageous threats to all mankind.

 

War is

the profoundest disrespect

for the sanctity  

of human life,

the ultimate in racism,

the collapse of morality.


War is  

the ultimate in criminality,

the ultimate obscenity,

the ultimate crime against humanity.


So shall we honour war?

and shall we now praise troubled men?

Or shall we remember what war is

and give true meaning

to "Never again" ?

 

David Roberts

28 September 2004



Lessons


Do away with medals

Poppies and remembrance parades

Those boys were brave, we know

But look where it got them


Reduced to line after perfect line

Of white stones

Immobile, but glorious, exciting

To kids who haven’t yet learned

That bullets don’t make little red holes


 They rip and smash and gouge

And drag the world’s dirt behind them

Remember lads, you won’t get laid

No matter how good your war stories


If you’re dead

So melt down the medals

Fuel the fire with paper poppies, war books and Arnie films

Stop playing the pipes, stop banging the drums

And stop writing fucking poems about it.


Danny Martin


More . . . ? Danny Martin was a soldier. There are more poems by him and information about him on his own page on this website. (Access through MODERN WAR POETRY link on MAIN INDEX page.)



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Being In Nothingness


Do you know the moments?


When life turns into nothingness


It's when a nation wages a war against another one


It's when a child dies of hunger in Africa


And co called activists talk about animal rights!


It's when humans kill each other


In the name of God!


Against the very spirit of their own religions!


It's when injustice and discrimination prevail


Based on skin colour and beliefs!


It's when masses are hoodwinked


By the propaganda machinery of their own elected Masters


It's when your beloved ones set off


To an endless voyage and invincible destination


And you can not help it!


Arbab Sikandar Gondal


2006.



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A Soldier's Face


The words of a song.

Author's introduction: "My name is Christophe Elie, I am a Singer/Songwriter. I write folk music mainly focused on social issues. I live in Canada, and I was recently inspired to write the following poem on November 11th , 2012, Canada's Remembrance Day.


A Soldier's Face


The soldier is a shell

A shell of metal medals

The soldier is the messenger

With a country's deadly message


The soldier is a trained killer

A soldier's eye is trained

On an enemy pre-defined

Our blackest fears framed


The soldier carries out

the orders of a few

A soldier's hands are tied

By a flag's blood white and blue


A soldier's flesh and blood

Is spent on the battlefield

War's currency

The years of our youth we steal


A soldier has a face

A soldier's heart is not unknown

It's their heart we all must face

Can we bear to face our own


Christophe Elie

2012 Christophe Elie

http://www.chriselie.com





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