Sunday, 12 November 2017

Hell Cannot Be As Bad As This

Hell cannot be as bad as this.

I dwell amongst; exist amidst
a stinking mound of fallen men
who lie dead-eyed
in bubbling broth of shit and piss.
Earth moves as worms writhe
and feast on human flesh,
rats gnaw deep exposing bones
and in this mess a wounded soldier 
groans and screams in unremitting pain
and longs for sweet release of death,
long lost his dream of going home.

Half-mad, I suck (the breath) in deep,
let it cling to chest lest it be the last I draw. 
Sometimes when morning breaks like this,
illuminates lights up the carnage spread before
or in the black of night
when imagination plays its cruellest tricks,
I think death much more preferable to this.

What price this place in human life is made? 
How many soldiers’ hearts must spill their blood,
lay still upon its soil its stinking mud
until its final cost is paid?


The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand the catalyst for what was to become The First World War, the first mindless, global war brought about by the insanity of the treaty alliance system, the war to end all wars…

The Battle of Verdun was the longest and one of the major battles fought on the Western Front and according to modern estimations the casualty count is in the region of 976,000.

The poem is composed of eye-witness accounts of life in the trenches found here and at other sites dedicated to The Battle of Verdun.

With thanks to Tess at The Mag for the inspiration, also linked to the good folk at dVerse~Poets PubOpen Link Night.

(Apart from minor editing, the words are of the original post.  The image differs as upon searching, I found the original copyrighted.)

I first posted these words on 14/11/12, and have reposted today as they remain relevant to all who have sacrificed their lives in the terrible arena of that that is war.

War does not only touch our soldiers who battle conscripted or not, but also civilians, and the death toll, the carnage, defies imagination.

Of course I am anti-war, but realistic enough to realise that conflict is sometimes neccessary to uphold to defend that that is good, that that is right.   Unfortunately the conflict of war is more often decided on the greed of humankind, whether it be for territory or the control of hearts and minds or any other pitiful excuse.

We will never learn for like it or not, we are tribal.

(I wear a red poppy although my heart tells me white.)

(Shared with the good folk at Poets United.)

Image:  Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Author:  Baldridge, Cryus Leroy (1889-1977


Jae Rose said...

A chilling write - well said Anna

Thotpurge said...

Anna.. to me..war can never be justified .. and you're so right, we will never learn..not from verdun, not from the insane horrors of every battle that followed. I'd love to see the day when everyone just puts down arms and says they will not be sacrificed for someone's ego, or greed or any other reason.

Sanaa Rizvi said...

'What price this place in human life is made? How many soldiers’ hearts must spill their blood, lay still upon its soil its stinking mud until its final cost is paid?'.. this is so heart breaking, Anna :( if only we could understand.. sigh.. :(

John Buchanan said...

A powerful write. It stirs memories for me.

Brendan MacOdrum said...

As well-versed as humanity is in fighting wars, we as a culture are woefully illiterate of it (especially in the U.S. where blood hasn't been spilled in war since 1865). Verdun was a massacre of unknowable proportions. It was said of Flanders (a four-year series of stagnant battles) that you could smell death from miles away. Feral indeed to stare wide eyed back at those battles, and you did without flinching yet with mercy. Well done.

annell said...

You did a wonderful job....if my thought right now, after reading your writing.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

I think that many soldiers are fresh-cheeked lads out of high school....just horrifying it must be in those trenches, hellish indeed.

Donna@LivingFromHappiness said...

My Uncle fought in 3 wars, thankfully not WWI, but he rarely spoke of it, and when he did these were the images. Ones we should not and I cannot get out of my head. A hell so awful we would wish for can we keep it going and for what reason. A very powerful, poignant and relevant poem.

colleen Looseleafnotes said...

Hellish for sure. I think we need the graphic truth more than the glorification.

brudberg said...

And then we said "never again" which has been repeated ever since... the horror of the trenches might not come in exactly the same form... but horrors for civilians seems to grow for every war....

Love how you formed it from real accounts.

X said...

I spent some time today, talking to some veterans
and listening to a chaplain - the obedience of the soldier
unto death really resonated inside me. No matter the conditions
and still they fought on.

Its quite challenging to think on.

Mary said...

Whew, you have really given a vivid picture of what that war was really like. Definitely 'hell' would only mildly describe it! If ONLY human beings would learn!! And, unfortunately, as you say we are 'tribal.' Your poem makes me want to read more about the Battle of Verdun. Powerful writing!

Susie Clevenger said...

Yes, when is war enough, carnage enough, death enough to chastise humanity into ending it?

R.K. Garon said...

Well covered/written.

Wendy Bourke said...

A impactful, brilliantly rendered piece. A fascinating - and important - post.

Cressida de Nova said...

The problem is we are desensitised to horror being confronted with it every day on the media It has become part of life. War has always been with us. It is part of the human condition. We just have to become cleverer about not having them but as our leaders are uninspired and not clever then the prognosis looks grim.

gillena cox said...

Such a macabre no nonsense approach. We cannot sleep or breathe through the folly of War.


The Bizza said...

This poem stands as a monument to the folly of mankind. The sentiment resonates with me.

fancier atoms said...

you paint in the beauty of truth.

Magaly Guerrero said...

"...when imagination plays its cruellest tricks". This line tells a terrible story. Most of humanity is always bragging about how superior it is, when it comes to other living things, how our ability to reason and imagine makes us so wonderful. Well, there is nothing grand in war... just waste... and death... and nothing... so much nothing...