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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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Remembering the victims of war

Caring for war veterans  -  Barak Obama

"As long as I am President, we will maintain the finest fighting force that the world has ever known, and we will do whatever it takes to serve our veterans as well as they have served us. This is a sacred trust. That’s why we’ve already made one of the largest increases in funding for veterans in decades. We’re treating the signature wounds of today’s wars -- post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury -- while providing the health care and benefits that all of our veterans have earned. And we’re funding a Post-9/11 GI Bill that helps our veterans and their families pursue the dream of a college education. Just as the GI Bill helped those who fought World War II -- including my grandfather -- become the backbone of our middle class, so today’s servicemen and women must have the chance to apply their gifts to expand the American economy. Because part of ending a war responsibly is standing by those who have fought it."

31 August 2010.

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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


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.)

From Cody McEwan, 2008.

I am a U.S. army infantryman, who has spent time in Mosul, and Baghdad.


I found out that not only was the light off,

But it was also broken.

No money for kerosene.

No money for nothin'.

Built my house out of grease cans in the middle of the dump

with the grazing sheep and burning garbage.

I only eat rice and corn chips. It's all I can afford.

I look around for useful things

that other people have thrown away.

I build and make use.

It used to stink here and everywhere

but now I hardly notice.

I long for the once peaceful country under iron fisted security.


Nothin' but cigarettes and death these days.


Sometimes when it's real hot I can smell the bodies

cooking under the trash piles.

I wonder who they are.

Who did they love?

In the winter the floor turns to mud and it's frigid.

My kids are skinny.

My wife is dying.

She's very sick.

I need help, but there is no humanity within a thousand miles of here.

Sometimes thieves come at night and steal my chickens.

Sometimes it seems like our god never loved any of us at all.

Maybe he eats pain like a Sunday snack.

Maybe he keeps all the good feelings for himself.

Or Maybe somewhere in heaven there is a clean little pond

with birds and fish and sheep that reflects a healthier happier me;

with long black hair and a full beard and deep brown eyes

that smile in eternity.

Little, smiling children in the river,

Where we wash our clothes,

Where the sewage flows and their little ribs stick out,

Hugging tuberculosis lungs

all black

from breathing the fire from the tires.

Cody McEwan

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Break them down

Raining, 2 A.M…

We take them so young

Just babies at 18

All volunteers now

Their reasons are so varied

Some like adventure

Some want to save the world

Some like to kill

Some want a long career

Some have no choice

Some want to disappear

Then we break them down

And build them up again

Turn them into fighters

Train them to kill

They’re soldiers now

Part of The Collective Will

Then they come home

And we say they’ve done their job

Some scars we see

Some are invisible

All are indivisible

So it’s all turned around

What’s normal to them now

Forget all that we say

Lead a life we say

Enjoy the freedom and security we trained you to preserve

But it’s never the same

Can’t be 18 again

We break them down

And build them back up again

They’re brothers, and lovers, and wives

They’re always somebody’s friend

But when they go into battle

The only friend they have in the fight

Is the gun in their hand

and the one on their left

and the one on their right

The fog of war sets in

Chaos reigns supreme

The world collapses

Into a singularity

Hearts beat

Hearts bleed

Hearts mourn

And the scars begin to form

We break them down

And build them back up again

We teach them to kill and die

and if they’re lucky

They last to the end

And then they come home

Their brothers and lovers and wives

Welcome them with open arms

Wrap them in the embrace of love

But it can’t hide the scars

Both seen and unseen

Now they’re at home

The fog comes along for the ride

Clouding the reasons why

Some fought, some killed, some died

We mourn the dead

Their bodies broken and torn

But the living must live on

Fighting their tears

Brain about to explode

With memories inerasable

The worst of it all

They can’t go back again

To remake themselves

To what they were

When at 18 they began

We break them down

Owen Griffiths


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They lied

by Rebekah Coomber

Rebekah introduces her poem:

I am fifteen years old. A year ago, I visited Auschwitz with a group of friends from England and some that we had met in Germany through the Cross of Nails charity.

I was inspired to write a poem reflecting my views on the Holocaust and this is from a Jewish perspective. (2010)

They lied

Sent to a better life, they told us. They lied.

Packed to go, our lives in a suitcase.

Forced on a train, sardines in a tin.

Destination? Unknown.

We'll be there soon, they told us. They lied.

Half of us dead, most of us dying.

We arrived, our lives thrust into Nazi fists.

Families separated, people alone.

You'll see them again, they told us. They lied.

They picked us out, worthy from useless.

Was this just a sick game?

Who were they to say? Who were they to judge?

It'll be over in a while, they told us. They lied.

Fear for our lives.

People left and never came back.

Our backs broken, our bodies broken, our hearts broken.

"Heil Hitler, he will save the world," they told us. They lied.

No bravery in our eyes anymore.

Only tears.

Sore from weeping, sore from sleeping.

"Work will set you free, harder," they told us. They lied.

The innocent forsaken.

The faithful destroyed.

How so uncompassionate? How so empty? How so cold?

You are all bad Jews, they told us. They lied.

I am God's child, I told them.

I am a light in the darkness, I told them

It's just a shower, they told me.

They lied. They lied. They lied.

Rebekah Coomber

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