Thursday, 20 February 2020


Death will come unbidden,
it will not come today
it will come tomorrow.  

He will be tomorrow’s ghost.  

He half expects it,
his mind played out its scene a hundred times before.   
He cannot envision pain
rather seeing blood spill
from imagined gaping wounds. 
His wish is if and when it comes
it will be quick. 

It is.

This theatre, this theatre of war,
he plays but a minor role;
he is expendable, no glory in his death,
no rapturous applause 
at his final curtain call.

There will be no homecoming,
no coffin draped in national flag. 
His remains are no remains at all,
mere fragments scattered on a foreign land,
fragments that putrefy and leach into the soil.

He is here, on this hillside,
his life extinguished where this tree now stands,
he is part of it,
it absorbed his memory
tapped it through its searching roots,
its twigs and branches now his arms and hands.

He is unaware
as his leaves turn blood-red and fall;
it is the cycle of things,
lines quite never understood,
lines never learnt in war. 
He has become the Earth. 
It is the nature of things.

Anna :o]

An oldie, resurrected and shared on Open Link Night at dVerse - cheers for hosting Lillian!

Also shared with the good folk on Writers' Pantry #8 at P&SU. hosted by the lovely Magaly - cheers Magaly!

Image:  Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons:

30 comments: said...

The horrors of war. As a person interested in language, I am always amazed how the news reports "casualties" -- those are people who died. Troops are individual human beings. Mortars are horrific large pieces of steel that rip through human bodies. We "soften" war and we, reading about it, have become so immune to the language and the constant reality of war going on somewhere, that we glide over the words.
Glad you posted!

Jenny Woolf said...

War poems are always necessary so that we don't forget. Thanks.

Jade Li said...

Profound and touching poem.

Glenn Buttkus said...

I never met a flower that started a war; except for possibly poppies. I used to visit a site that was dedicated to war poetry. For me it takes a poet, not a journalist, to capture the horror. I like several of your lines.

Mary Hood said...

A poem of honor for so many past and many more.

Colleen Looseleaf said...

Poignant and sad. It seems so preventable. Not death but the way of it.

Frank Hubeny said...

Nice descriptive lines: "no rapturous applause
at his final curtain call."

Kim M. Russell said...

Your poem is so stark and honest, Anna, a true war poem. You’ve captured the heavy feeling in the gut, knowing that your fate is to be tomorrow’s ghost. You’ve also conveyed the horrors of the theatre of war clearly in few words, and the tragedy, especially in the lines:
‘His remains are no remains at all,
mere fragments scattered on a foreign land,
fragments that putrefy and leach into the soil’.
You’ve even captured the beauty of death and life in the lines about the tree:
‘it absorbed his memory
tapped it through its searching roots,
its twigs and branches now his arms and hands.’

Gina said...

to me this conveyed what the soldiers felt and could not say, fighting for their own lives in the end and not understanding his purpose of being there.

Martin said...

Poignant and sad, I agree with my predecessor. There is not even consolation in the thought that also those who start the wars will finally go the same way.

Rosemary Nissen-Wade said...

Death seems so random, taking some young and sparing others much longer (though war of course increases the odds of going early). And yes, the passage of time makes it seem inevitable and even acceptable as 'the nature of things'.

anthonynorth said...

As ex-forces that struck a note for me. Excellently done.

Sanaa Rizvi said...

My goodness this is poignant! Especially touched by; "he is part of it, it absorbed his memory,tapped it through its searching roots, its twigs and branches now his arms and hands."

Lona Gynt said...

The Nature of all things. All wrapped up together, All warped up toge3ther.
I love and am torn up by the beautiful incantatory feeling is this rhythm and sound, drifitng to that final dissipation. So well done.

Gillena Cox said...

Luv the closing 2 lines. The natural ness of life and death contained therein
Happy Sunday. Thank you for dropping by my sumie Sunday today, Anna


Sherry Blue Sky said...

I love that he became part of the tree, its branches his arms and hands.

Baishali said...

beautiful lines with a mesmerizing ending. Loved it.

C. Sandlin said...

So quiet...the lines and images aren't explosive but the emotion is fierce and pulls me down to the level of the leaves.

Helen said...

A beautiful write and chilling at the same time .... bless those who have given so much for us.

The Bizza said...

"Death will come unbidden,
it will not come today
it will come tomorrow.

He will be tomorrow’s ghost."

A gripping opening leads to an absolutely exquisite poem. No man-made memorials for this tragic soul, and so nature quietly re-purposes him, returning him to the life-cycle, a memorial all the same, observed by the sun and wind.

Strong, strong statement here.

ZQ said...

Very powerful piece.

Wendy Bourke said...

A powerful, powerful articulation. The profound sadness and stupidity of war. Young people - in the glory of youth - offered up as cannon fodder. Madness.

Brilliant writing in this important piece.

Jenna said...

Beautiful, haunting, and powerful.

Rommy said...

And often the ones who orchestrate the events resulting in the carnage sit safely inside their plush offices in some capital.

Magaly Guerrero said...

In war, like in life, death and loss (and worse) are certain things. I never understand the concept of "winning a war". How can anyone think that's possible? The only war won is the one never began. As soon as the first bullet is shot, death begins to grin. And, like your poem suggests, nothing--nothing at all--can make what happens next more than a terrible loss.

Joel (@Stranded Tree) said...

The finality and futility of the loss of a life in war. To think that there will be no body to be returned to family and no closure. The randomness of a bullet or bomb, where it decides to land or whom it may destroy. All by chance.
This is both sad and beautiful

Jim said...

Death can be friend or foe, or just a tribal blotch in the way of things going. In suicide it's a friend, murder a foe.
Most including war are but a blotch, "plays but a minor role;he is expendable, no glory in his death,no rapturous applause at his final curtain call ..." makes these blotches dramatic.
Very dramatic your writing, still, the blot. Wonderfully written, Annie.

Jim said...

Spell corrector, tribal his, "trivial" mine.

R's Rue said...


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Anna - this is a lovely tribute to death and how the tree lives on .. so very apposite - thanks for this lovely poem ... also thanks for coming to my #WATWB post ... cheers Hilary