Monday, 11 November 2013

To Those Who Would Dishonour the Dead

 Apologia Pro Poemate Meo

I, too, saw God through mud– 
The mud that cracked on cheeks when wretches smiled.
War brought more glory to their eyes than blood,
And gave their laughs more glee than shakes a child.

Merry it was to laugh there–
Where death becomes absurd and life absurder.
For power was on us as we slashed bones bare
Not to feel sickness or remorse of murder.

I, too, have dropped off fear–
Behind the barrage, dead as my platoon,
And sailed my spirit surging, light and clear,
Past the entanglement where hopes lie strewn;

And witnessed exhultation–
Faces that used to curse me, scowl for scowl,
Shine and lift up with passion of oblation,
Seraphic for an hour, though they were foul.

I have made fellowships–
Untold of happy lovers in old song.
For love is not the binding of fair lips
With the soft silk of eyes that look and long.

By joy, whose ribbon slips,–
But wound with war’s hard wire whose stakes are strong;
Bound with the bandage of the arm that drips;
Knit in the welding of the rifle-thong.

I have perceived much beauty
In the hoarse oaths that kept our courage straight;
Heard music in the silentness of duty;
Found peace where shell-storms spouted reddest spate.

Nevertheless, except you share
With them in hell the sorrowful dark of hell,
Whose world is but a trembling of a flare
And heaven but a highway for a shell,

You shall not hear their mirth:
You shall not come to think them well content
By any jest of mine. These men are worth
Your tears: You are not worth their merriment. 

To Those Whow Would Dishonour the Dead

One single shot shattered fragile peace
and your country needs you,
needs you now,
needs you to spill your blood and guts on foreign soil.

There are empty places at the table,
lineage as broken as the beating hearts he left behind,
no progeny to bear his nose his chin his eyes. 
Do you remember him or does he lie forgotten?

There are those amongst us
who would have us turn our backs
against those sacrificial lambs that,
ripe for slaughter
fell to earth for king and country.

To you who wear proud
your badge of smug self-righteousness
I ask:
When they first come for the socialists, 
will you speak out?

Lest we forget;
know of those whose fallen bones
lie lost beneath the sod of foreign fields,
where poppies bleed in awful grief
and give gentle nod of reverence.

I will remember.

First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then the came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.

Martin Niemöller

Remembrance Day is a memorial day to remember members of the armed forces who died in the line of duty.  It is not a glorification of war; it is a day to honour the dead.
Please don’t politicise it.
Also remembered, all civilian causalities and all those who through the death of civilians and armed forces personal were never born.

Image: courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Author: Tijl Vercaemer from Gent, Flanders #Belgium)


Vandana Sharma said...

To die for one's country is the greatest honour one can do for his or her country.

J Cosmo Newbery said...

The old lie: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.

Gabriella said...

I agree with you, Anna. Remembrance day is not political. It is a day when we should only remember those who gave their lives for their countries and for freedom.
"know of those whose fallen bones lie lost beneath the sod of foreign fields, where poppies bleed in awful grief and give gentle nod of reverence." - beautiful and powerful words!

Anonymous said...

The three poems compliment each other. Your words, I would say, are a tribute to all those who lose their lives by the sword of the political wars.
Well-written... and that "I remember" holds a sentimental value. :-)

Susan said...

I pause before reading the rest to thank you for Wilfred Owen. To describe his work would have been a stalling tactic. Best to plunge in and let it tear at the heart.
Oh! It's a conversation! I hear echoes of Denmark and Belgium, echoes of Gettysburg, the crying of the poppies of the field.
And here are the famous lines themselves!
And your plea. I feel as if I've been to the entire ceremony and I thank you.

rallentanda said...

Over 40 million people died in WW1..
Try to get your head around that figure..The entire population of Australia is 23 million. The memory of the dead is worth something...There will always be evil aggressors (Germany in the case of both of the world wars) and there will always be a need for defence.
Tis in the destructive and greedy nature of man.

Natašek said...

beautiful. the collection itself, they fit well together. some really great lines, thoughts.

Nirvana on fire said...

A strong poetic triad!
I sometimes envy these dead. The ones who gave up their lives so that we'll live peacefully. Some 'people' dishonor their sacrifice with their lust for power which makes the 'Dead' more alive than them..

Sumana Roy said...

ah Wilfred he hated glorification of war, war mongers and the concept of sacrifice in war...yet war will always be there, thanks to the greedy politicians and so there will be 'fallen bones',poppies
will 'bleed in awful grief' as long as the human kinds remain uncivilized
powerful lines....

Mary said...

Thank you, Anna, for your well thought out words. And the words of other poets. We must continue to remember those who have served and fallen.

Optimistic Existentialist said...

This is so thought-provoking, especially on this Veteran's Day and Remembrance Day...

Brian Miller said...

a sobering reminder for rememberence day...whether we agree with the powers that be and how they use our tropps, those that gave their life for us should be honored....very strong write...and some great poetry sandwiched around yours to set the tone as well...

Manzanita said...

It's great to honor the dead but it is because of politics we have the dead.

Rosaria Williams said...


Susie Clevenger said...

We cannot truly fathom the sacrifices that have been made by our women and men who have lost life and limb to war. Those who have come home to continue their lives beyond war will always carry it with them. Thank you so much for your words and those of others in this beautifully crafted work to honor our veterans.

Sharp Little Pencil said...

Neimoller is quoted often at our place of worship.

I am a pacifist; I find war a pointless exercise in the slaughter of human beings. BUT I shake the hand of every veteran, every police officer, etc. I see, because I know they have seen it all.

I believe Veterans' Day and Memorial Day are very political. I see Veterans for Peace on Atwood Avenue... they set up a gravestone for every single American killed in action from WWI until today. It's all political, because the powerful wage wars. Our neighbors' kids just go and fight them.
Respectfully, Amy

brudberg said...

Yes if we do not remember those who died.. how can we prevent it from happening again. Unfortunately we tend to forget... killing is still going on..

revelations said...

those who sacrificed.. will always live in the memories of those they sacrificed for...

Laura said...

You honor those who have fallen, and those who return beautifully Anna

Kay L. Davies said...

In reflecting on what you have shared here, I am glad I chose to honour a member of my family who died in a war that was over before I was born.
Those who willingly risk and give their lives for us are to be honoured this day.
Thank you for your words.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful tribute to those who gave up everything, and those who will do the same now and into the future.


Loredana Donovan said...

I agree that war should not be glorified, but we should remember and honor the soldiers who sacrificed. A wonderful tribute.

Anonymous said...

a classical feel. well penned ~

Anonymous said...

You have posted a powerful tribute, well done!

Martin said...

I could not say it better than my predecessor howanxious. What needs to be added imho: The death of a soldier is so often much less comprehensible than even a "normal" one.