[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com

Clearing Station

Straw rustling everywhere.
The candle-stumps stand there staring solemnly.
Across the nocturnal vault of the church
Moans go drifting and choking words.

There's a stench of blood, pus, shit and sweat.
Bandages ooze away underneath torn uniforms.
Clammy trembling hands and wasted faces.
Bodies stay propped up as their dying heads slump down.

In the distance the battle thunders grimly on,
Day and night, groaning and grumbling non-stop,
And to the dying men patiently waiting for their graves
It sounds for all the world like the words of God.

by Wilhelm Klemm

[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
We Slept With Our Boots On

They unloaded the dead and maimed right before our eyes
They washed out the blood, we loaded our rucks and then took to the skies
Over the mountains, villages, and valleys we flew
Where we would land we had not a clue
Bullets are flying, the LZ is hot
We’re leaving this bird whether we like it or not
30 seconds they yelled, Lock N Load and grab your shit
Get ready to go and make it quick
My heart is pumping adrenalin through all of my veins
I run as fast as I can through the lead rain
The noise is tremendous, terror I can’t define
The only reason I survived that day was divine
I kept pulling the trigger and reloading and pulling some more
You do what you have to do, with that I will say no more
We fought from the valleys to the mountain peaks
From house to cave, to car to creek
Dirty and tired and hungry and scared
We slept with our boots on so we were always prepared
Those majestic mountains so steep, so high they kiss the skies
The Hindu Kush has changed so many lives
Up the mountains with heavy loads we trod
Who knew hell was so close to God
Beauty and terror are a strong mixed drink
So we drank it like drunkards and tried not to think
Good men and bad men, Mothers' lost sons
Everyone loses their innocence when they carry guns
Washed in the blood, and baptized by fire
I will never forget those who were called higher
They say blood is thicker than water, well lead is thicker than blood
Brothers aren’t born they’re earned. In the poppy fields, the tears, and the mud
And when I get to heaven to Saint Peter I will tell
Another Paratrooper reporting for duty sir, I spent my time in hell

By Steve Carlsen
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
The Dead Kings
(France, January 7th, 1917)

All the dead kings came to me
At Rosnaree, where I was dreaming.
A few stars glimmered through the morn,
And down the thorn the dews were streaming.

And every dead king had a story
Of ancient glory, sweetly told.
It was too early for the lark,
But the starry dark had tints of gold.

I listened to the sorrows three
Of that Eire passed into song.
A cock crowed near a hazel croft,
And up aloft dim larks winged strong.

And I, too, told the kings a story
Of later glory, her fourth sorrow:
There was a sound like moving shields
In high green fields and the lowland furrow.

And one said: "We who yet are kings
Have heard these things lamenting inly."
Sweet music flowed from many a bill
And on the hill the morn stood queenly.

And one said: "Over is the singing,
And bell bough ringing, whence we come;
With heavy hearts we'll tread the shadows,
In honey meadows birds are dumb."

And one said: "Since the poets perished
And all they cherished in the way,
Their thoughts unsung, like petal showers
Inflame the hours of blue and gray."

And one said: "A loud tramp of men
We'll hear again at Rosnaree."
A bomb burst near me where I lay.
I woke, 'twas day in Picardy.

By Francis Ledwidge
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com

Blood splats on his car front window,
Mother screams
An American spits onto a bud of flame
that burst from the ground.

Soil dehydrated by flame
(not by the desert)
Iraqi ground bears the shame
of Saddam Hussein.

1500 aircrafts and 50 troops American deployed
into a swarm of queen bees
whose honey-coated hives
have been suffocated by Bush's demonically dry
breath, liquid sweetness dried
into crusted fermentation in the mouth of a Conservative fly,
I cry to help to re-moisten the soil,
to nourish the boils
one man's angers transmits as fear and martyrdom
to a population of the desperate.

By Farrah Sarafa
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
Guns At The Front

Man, simple and brave, easily confiding,
Giving his all, glad of the sun's sweetness,
Heeding little of pitiful incompleteness,
Mending life with laughter and cheerful chiding,

Where is he?--I see him not, but I hear
Sounds, charged with nothing but death and maiming;
Earth and sky empty of all but flaming
Bursts, and shocks that stun the waiting ear;

Monsters roaring aloud with hideous vastness,
Nothing, Nothing, Nothing! And man that made them
Mightier far than himself, has stooped, and obeyed them,
Schooled his mind to endure its own aghastness,

Serving death, destruction, and things inert,--
He the soarer, free of heavens to roam in,
He whose heart has a world of light to home in,
Confounding day with darkness, flesh with dirt.

Oh, dear indeed the cause that so can prove him,
Pitilessly self--tested! If no cause beaconed
Beyond this chaos, better he bled unreckoned,
With his own monsters bellowing madness above him.

By Laurence Binyon
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
Trench Names

The column, like a snake, winds through the fields,
Scoring the grass with wheels, with heavy wheels
And hooves, and boots. The grass smiles in the sun,
Quite helpless. Orchard and copse are Paradise
Where flowers and fruits grow leisurely, and birds
Rise in the blue, and sing, and sink again
And rest. The woods are ancient. They have names—
Thiepval, deep vale, La Boisselle, Aubépines,
Named long ago by dead men. And their sons
Know trees and creatures, earth and sky, the same.

We gouge out tunnels in the sleeping fields.
We turn the clay and slice the turf, and make
A scheme of cross-roads, orderly and mad,
Under and through, like moles, like monstrous worms.
Dig out our dens, like cicatrices scored
Into the face of earth. And we give names
To our vast network in the roots, imposed,
Imperious, desperate to hide, to hurt.

The sunken roads were numbered at the start.
A chequer board. But men are poets, and names
Are Adam’s heritage, and English men
Imposed a ghostly English map on French
Crushed ruined harvests and polluted streams.

So here run Piccadilly, Regent Street,
Oxford Street, Bond Street, Tothill Fields, Tower Bridge,
And Kentish places, Dover, Tunbridge Wells,
Entering wider hauntings, resonant,
The Boggart Hole, Bleak House, Deep Doom and Gloom.

Remembering boyhood, soldier poets recall
The desperate deeds of Lost Boys, Peter Pan,
Hook Copse, and Wendy Cottage. Horrors lurk
In Jekyll Copse and Hyde Copse. Nonsense smiles
As shells and flares disorder tidy lines
In Walrus, Gimble, Mimsy, Borogrove—
Which lead to Dum and Dee and to that Wood
Where fury lurked, and blackness, and that Crow.

There’s Dead Man’s Dump, Bone Trench and Carrion Trench,
Cemetery Alley, Skull Farm, Suicide Road,
Abuse Trench and Abyss Trench, Cesspool, Sticky Trench,
Slither Trench, Slimy Trench, Slum Trench, Bloody Farm.
Worm Trench, Louse Post, Bug Alley, Old Boot Street.
Gas Alley, Gangrene Alley, Gory Trench.
Dreary, Dredge, Dregs, Drench, Drizzle, Drivel, Bog.

Some frame the names of runs for frames of mind.
Tremble Copse, Wrath Copse, Anxious Crossroads, Howl,
Doleful and Crazy Trenches, Folly Lane,
Ominous Alley, Worry Trench, Mad Point,
Lunatic Sap, and then Unbearable
Trench, next to Fun Trench, Worry Trench, Hope Trench,
And Happy Alley.

How they swarm, the rats.
Fat beasts and frisking, yellow teeth and tails
Twitching and slippery. Here they are at home
As gaunt and haunted men are not. For rats
Grow plump in ratholes and are not afraid,
Resourceful little beggars, said Tom Thinn,
The day they ate his dinner, as he died.

Their names are legion. Rathole, Rat Farm, Rat Pit,
Rat Post, Fat Rat, Rats’ Alley, Dead Rats’ Drain,
Rat Heap, Flat Rat, the Better ’Ole, King Rat.
They will outlast us. This is their domain.

And when I die, my spirit will pass by
Through Sulphur Avenue and Devil’s Wood
To Jacob’s Ladder along Pilgrim’s Way
To Eden Trench, through Orchard, through the gate
To Nameless Trench and Nameless Wood, and rest.

by A.S. Byatt
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
Mambo Point, Sierra Leone

Sea breezes wave palms under cathedral skies. The hotel is a beacon
commanding the bay and the city’s waterfront.
On a stone patio, multi-hued umbrellas
protect the lunch crowd from the brassy sun.

Waiters glide smoothly between tables with drinks and meals.
They are largely ignored by the peace keepers
in their crisp uniforms and ribbons over their chests.
Some laughing over some war story from past deployments.
Others are deep in discussions over future truces to keep.

Diplomats lean back in their chairs with self-congratulations
swimming in their eyes over the latest peace treaty.
This time, all the warlords have signed.
Power promised, state ministries allocated and money divided
while stony-faced waiters clear tables
and return with another round of drinks.

Sitting near the bar, pimps in silk ties and laptops quietly hammer out deals.
Hard to tell what is being discussed. Oil? Arms?
Maybe even food to be distributed to the refugees in their squalid camps
(and whether payment will be by wire transfer or letter of credit).
One grabs the arm of a waiter and makes him drop his tray.
Pink mouths and perfect teeth bray with laughter.

The lunch hour passes.
The crowd melts into the hotel, their chauffeured SUVs,
or the military helicopter clattering into the sky.
Clean up is over. Shift change.
The waiters trade starched linen for T-shirts, get their pay,
and walk home in the growing dusk.
Past the hotel’s barbed wire and guards.
Past the steely whores and iron money changers.
Down the streets to where friends call them by name,
the evening’s cooking fires are starting, and
children run to greet them.

By Andreas Morgner
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
Oxford Revisited in War-Time

Beneath fair Magdalen’s storied towers
I wander in a dream,
And hear the mellow chimes float out
O’er Cherwell’s ice-bound stream.

Throstle and blackbird stiff with cold
Hop on the frozen grass;
Among the aged, upright oaks
The dun deer slowly pass.

The chapel organ rolls and swells,
And voices still praise God;
But ah! the thought of youthful friends
Who lie beneath the sod.

Now wounded men with gallant eyes
Go hobbling down the street,
And nurses from the hospitals
Speed by with tireless feet.

The town is full of uniforms,
And through the stormy sky,
Frightening the rooks from the tallest trees,
The aeroplanes roar by.

The older faces still are here,
More grave and true and kind,
Ennobled by the steadfast toil
Of patient heart and mind.

And old-time friends are dearer grown
To fill a double place:
Unshaken faith makes glorious
Each forward-looking face.

Old Oxford walls are grey and worn:
She knows the truth of tears,
But to-day she stands in her ancient pride
Crowned with eternal years.

Gone are her sons: yet her heart is glad
In the glory of their youth,
For she brought them forth to live or die
By freedom, justice, truth.

Cold moonlight falls on silent towers;
The young ghosts walk with the old;
But Oxford dreams of the dawn of May
And her heart is free and bold.

By Tertius van Dyke
Magdalen College, January, 1917
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
Sean South of Garryowen

Sad are the homes round Garryowen since they lost their joy and pride
And the banshee cry links every vale around the Shannon side
That city of the ancient walls, the broken treaty stone,
Undying fame surrounds your name, Sean South from Garryowen

T'was on a dreary New Years Eve as the shades of night came down
A lorry load of volunteers approached the border town
There were men from Dublin and from Cork, Fermanagh and Tyrone,
And the leader was a Limerick man - Sean South from Garryowen

As they moved along the street up to the barracks door
They scorned the danger they might face, their fate that lay in store
They were fighting for old Ireland to claim their very own
And the foremost of that gallant band was South from Garryowen

But the sergeant spied their daring plan; he spied them through the door
The Sten guns and the rifles a hail of death did pour
And when that awful night had passed, two men lay cold as stone
There was one from near the border town and one from Garryowen

No more will he hear the seagull's cry over the murmuring Shannon tide
For he fell beneath a Northern sky, brave Hanlon by his side
They have gone to join that gallant band of Plunkett, Pearse and Tone
A martyr for old Ireland: Sean South from Garryowen

By 'The Wolfe Tones

Sean South, died January 1, 1957

[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
Crucifix Corner

There was a water dump there, and regimental
Carts came every day to line up and fill full
Those rolling tanks with chlorinated clear mixture;
And curse the mud with vain veritable vexture.
Aveluy across the valley, billets, shacks, ruins,
With time and time a crump there to mark doings.
On New Year's Eve the marsh glowed tremulous
With rosy mist still holding late marvellous
Sun-glow, the air smelt home; the time breathed home.
Noel not put away; new term not yet come,
All things said 'Severn', the air was full of those calm meadows;
Transport rattled somewhere in the southern shadows;
Stars that were not strange ruled the most quiet high
Arch of soft sky, starred and most grave to see, most high.
What should break that but gun-noise or last Trump?
But neither came. At sudden, with light jump
Clarinet sang into 'Hundred Pipers and A'',
Aveluy's Scottish answered with pipers true call
'Happy we've been a'together'. When nothing
Stayed of war-weariness or winter's loathing,
Crackers with Christmas stockings hung in the heavens,
Gladness split discipline in sixes and sevens,
Hunger ebb'd magically mixed with strange leavens;
Forgotten, forgotten the hard time's true clothing,
And stars were happy to see Man making Fate plaything.

By Ivor Gurney
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
Pincher D.C.M.

The British soldier 'as 'is faults, 'e's 'uman like the rest,
'E 'as the little weaknesses that's common to the best.
'E's 'asty in 'is language, but you wouldn't call 'im mean.
'E's fairly open-'anded and I think you'd say 'e's clean.
'E's respectful to the women folk, wherever 'e may roam
And 'e don't 'urt little children 'e's too fond of 'em at 'ome.
'E likes 'is bit of grousing, but 'e's straight and 'e can shoot,
And there's one thing you can bet on, 'e doesn't burn or loot.

Now of course there is exceptions, there's bound to be you know,
When you come to take an army of a million men or so.
I know one who's got a medal, and 'e well deserves it too.
Tho' 'is principles was rotten, but I leaves 'is case to you.
'E 'adn't got no shame at all, 'e ses "What of the loot!
Bits and things dropped in a 'urry, we shall find when we're en route."
So we tried 'ard to convince 'im and 'e 'ad three scraps that night
Because we named 'im 'Pincher' and it suited 'im all right.

When we got on active service, oh 'e 'ad a shocking blow
For the orders about looting was most plainly N-O, no
And 'e couldn't eat his 'bully' when he passed things on the road
For 'e got the 'ump with thinking of the things 'e might 'ave stowed.
But at Mons 'e turned quite cheerful, and I 'eard the blighter say,
"There's no 'arm now in looting, where the folks have gone away.
For you see it stands to reason all the things they leave behind
Will be collared by the Germans without asking, Do you mind?"

But 'e didn't get much looting, we was moving night and day
With 'ardly time to eat or sleep and fighting all the way.
Till one evening spent and weary, we 'ad a spell of rest.
In a village called Le—something—and then Pincher did 'is best.
First 'e started on a chateau, just to see what 'e could find
And 'e found most every blessed thing the owner'd left behind.
When 'e 'ad to leave the chandelier it nearly broke 'is 'eart.
And 'e'd a took the grand pianner if 'e'd 'ad an 'orse and cart!

You ought to 'ave seen 'im loaded with what ever 'e could bring,
'E was full of clocks and vases all tied up with bits of string.
'E got a marble statue of a girl without her clothes,
And a bust of Julius Caesar that 'e'd dropped and broke its nose.
There was spoons in ev'ry pocket all mixed up with bric-a-brac,
And half a dozen 'earthrugs, rolled up careful on 'is back.
When 'e come into the camp, we was looting on our plan
I ses "Love a duck, its Pickford been and lost 'is bloomin' van."

We was just agoing to ask 'im where the dickens 'e 'ad been,
When a coal-box 'it us sudden, and the roof came tumbling in.
All the bottles fell on Pincher, and it fairly made 'im squint
When the lady with no clothes on 'ad a bath in cream de mint.
Then a bullet knocked me over, and I couldn't laugh no more,
When 'e dropped 'is precious 'earthrugs just to lift me from the floor.

For tho' 'e knew 'e'd lose the lot, 'e stuck to me like glue
An' when 'e got me in the lines, so 'elp me bob, it's true,
'E'd got three bullets in 'im, 'e could 'ardly stand or see,
And the only loot left on 'im was 'is trousers, shirt and me!

by F.C. Hennequin and Cuthbert Clarke (1916)
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
Verses from 1936

When this century collapses, dead at last,
and its sleep within the dark tomb has begun,
come, look down upon us, world, file past
and be ashamed of what our age has done.

Inscribe our stone, that everyone may see
what this dead era valued most and best:
science, progress, work, technology
and death—but death we prized above the rest.

We set new records, measuring men and deeds
in terms of greatness; thus we tempted fate.
In keeping with the greatness of our needs,
our heroes and our gangsters, too, were great.

The 20th century, buried; nonetheless,
world, see what eras yet to come will gain:
Great new records, great inventions. Wretchedness.
Dictators. War. A ruined town in Spain.

by Karel Capek
(translator unknown; the poem is quoted in a biography, and its actual title is also unknown)
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
A Royal Cracksman

When the housebreaking business is slack
And cracksmen are finding it slow
For all the sea-siders are back
And a great many more didn't go
Here's excellent news from the front
And joy in Bill Sikes's brigade;
Things are looking up since
The German Crown Prince
Has been giving a fillip to trade.

His methods are quite up-to-date,
Displaying adroitness and dash ;
What he wants he collects in a crate,
What he doesn't he's careful to smash.
An historical chateau in France
With Imperial ardour he loots,
Annexing the best
And erasing the rest
With the heels of his soldierly boots.

Sikes reads the report with applause,
It's quite an inspiring affair;
But a sudden idea gives him pause
The Germans must stop over there!
So he flutters a Union Jack
To help to keep Englishmen steady,
Remarking, ' His nibs
Mustn't crack English cribs,
The profession is crowded already.'

By Jessie Pope
duathir: (Default)
[personal profile] duathir
Cry of the Innocent

I have not fully died

Go search the wreckage
Of the war shrived of cause
Find my shivering ghost
Singing dreams of peace
Weeping not for myself
But for you
Who lost your sanity
In the haze of power

I have been made
To shed blood
One among many children
Who never understood
The language of war
Who cannot fathom
Why flower fields
Become grounds of madness
Why innocence is slain
In the name of peace

My ghost waits
With other ghosts
Of children
Hear my cry
Meld in chorus
With theirs
Let the chorus
Of our sorrow
Lacerate indifference
And illusions of infallibility
Our death keeps us
Young forever
In the memories of those
Who will remember us
But we have grown old
The moment blood seeped out
Of our young bodies
We know this war you fight
More than you do

In our graves
We have kept our bearings

In your madness for power
You have lost it.

By Cheryl Daytec
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
Cry of the Innocent

I have not fully died

Go search the wreckage
Of the war shrived of cause
Find my shivering ghost
Singing dreams of peace
Weeping not for myself
But for you
Who lost your sanity
In the haze of power

I have been made
To shed blood
One among many children
Who never understood
The language of war
Who cannot fathom
Why flower fields
Become grounds of madness
Why innocence is slain
In the name of peace

My ghost waits
With other ghosts
Of children
Hear my cry
Meld in chorus
With theirs
Let the chorus
Of our sorrow
Lacerate indifference
And illusions of infallibility
Our death keeps us
Young forever
In the memories of those
Who will remember us
But we have grown old
The moment blood seeped out
Of our young bodies
We know this war you fight
More than you do

In our graves
We have kept our bearings

In your madness for power
You have lost it.

By Cheryl Daytec
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
Unto US this child is born

Last night I had this visionary dream;
I stood then trod on lonely, broken land -
I mean heart-broken. Something made it seem
This land was human. Lonely, frightened and
Abandoned. Just like me? No. By my feet
A naked baby lay, pale as a sheet
Of phosphor. Not the grandson that's now mine -
He's safe. He wasn't born in Palestine.

A voice inside said:"Jesus and . . . each child
Who's born for Zion's torture." Loud and wild
The land was now. The air now full of stones
Cast from the sky by unmanned, brutal drones.
I woke up sweating, knowing I must tell
The truth: of genocide by Israel.

By Felicity Currie
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
When The Lights Go On Again

When the lights go on again all over the world
And the boys are home again all over the world
And rain or snow is all that may fall from the skies above
A kiss won't mean "goodbye" but "Hello to love"

When the lights go on again all over the world
And the ships will sail again all over the world
Then we'll have time for things like wedding rings and free hearts will sing
When the lights go on again all over the world

When the lights go on again all over the world
And the ships will sail again all over the world
Then we'll have time for things like wedding rings and free hearts will sing
When the lights go on again all over the world

By Bennie Benjamin

(Posted to the memory of my parents, married December 26, 1946)

[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
Christmas Day in the Cookhouse

It was Christmas day in the cookhouse,
The happiest day of the year,
Men's hearts were full of gladness
And their bellies full of beer,
When up spoke Private Shorthouse,
His face as bold as brass,
Saying, 'We don't want your Christmas pudding
You can stick it up your ...'

Tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy,
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy!

It was Christmas day in the harem,
The eunuchs were standing round,
And hundreds of beautiful women
Were stretched out on the ground,
When in strode the Bold Bad Sultan,
And gazed at his marble halls,
Saying, 'What do you want for Christmas, boys?'
And the eunuchs answered...

Tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy,
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy!


[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
Christmas Day On The Somme

’Twas Christmas Day on the Somme
The men stood on parade,
The snow laid six feet on the ground
Twas twenty in the shade.

Up spoke the Captain, "gallant men,
Just hear what I’ve to say,
You may not have remembered that
Today is Christmas Day."

"The General has expressed a wish
This day may be observed,
Today you will only work eight hours,
A rest that’s well deserved.

I hope you’ll keep yourselves quite clean
And smart and spruce and nice,
The stream is frozen hard
But a pick will break the ice."

"All men will get two biscuits each,
I’m sure you’re tired of bread,
I’m sorry there’s no turkey
but there’s Bully Beef instead.

The puddings plum have not arrived
But they are on their way,
I’ll guarantee they’ll be in time
To eat next Christmas Day."

"Your parcels would have been in time
But I regret to say
The vessel which conveyed them was
Torpedoed on the way.

The Quartermaster’s got your rum
But you may get some yet,
Each man will be presented with
A Woodbine cigarette."

"The Huns have caught us in the rear
And painted France all red,
Pray do not let that trouble you,
Tomorrow you’ll be dead.

Now ere you go I wish you all
This season of good cheer,
A very happy Christmas and
A prosperous New Year."

By Leslie George Rub

About the author

Leslie George Rub was 23 when he enlisted at Towoomba, Queensland, Australia on 25th August 1915. He sailed for Alexandria on board the H.M.A.T. Wandilla from Brisbane, Queensland. From Alexandria he was transferred from 26th Battalion to 2nd Pioneers because of his carpentry experience, and sent first to France, and then on to Flanders in Belgium. Some of the places he mentioned in his letters (that were not censored) are Ypres and Bullecourt (where a disastrous battle took place that engendered the greatest distrust and contempt in Australian troops for their British commanders). Leslie came out with a minor wound.

In autumn 1917, seven weeks after the start of the Third Battle of Ypres, Australian troops finally captured Westhoek Ridge, where German strongholds were manned by machinegunners. Three days later Leslie Rub and other men from his company were in the night making a road between Broodseinde Ridge and Westhoek Ridge when they were shelled. Leslie was hit in the kidneys by shrapnel. He died the next morning, on the 23rd September 1917, at the 1st Australian Ambulance. He is buried at Dickebusch War Cemetry, 5 km southwest of Ypres.


War Poetry

January 2017

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