Monday, August 4, 2014

The faceless men

Written for the Great War memorial event on 3 August 2014 at Leigh Community Centre, inspired by Christopher Nevinson's painting 'Paths of Glory'.















We are not sleeping,
we are not daubed in pride.
We are not heralded on shoulders in some
tickertape of home.
We are at one with the land,
this land that isn't ours; and boots
and straps and
rifles
litter our final resting place.
Face down, the line between us and mud is
blurring,
with snags of wire and bootlaces
a meld of silent mess.
This earth is blasted,
a bitter wasteland murdered
by the tramp and smash of us.
I didn't know him.
He called to me to warn me
and I couldn't place his face.
I didn't know him;
not in the ways we should.
What was his girl's name?
Did he have a child?
Had I offered him a cigarette once?
I didn't know him,
but here we lie.
I am him,
and he is me.
We are bookends to the violence:
toy soldiers in some awful game.
Ten minutes ago, we shot at others
who shot at us in return.
The metal sound of gunfire
perforations in my ears.
He grabbed me, shoved me down,
and then a puff of mushroomy smoke.
I knew we'd landed on a mine -
my ruptured insides blew apart with all the
vim and vigour of our patriotic hearts.
His too.
And here we are.
We are not sleeping,
we are not daubed in pride.
We are not heralded on shoulders in some
tickertape of home.
I am him,
and he is me.
The orphaned men,
whose final dreams of wives and homes
were diminished in an instant.


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