Minds at War
anthology of poetry of the First World War. All the greatest war poems of Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon and war poems of over 70 other notable poets. All set in the context of the poets' lives and historical records. With historic photographs and cartoons. Edited by David Roberts.
400 pages £15-99 (UK)
|Graham Cordwell||Poems and thoughts - These poems are now available on a separate page - Graham Cordwell|
|John-George Nicholson||Here comes Dr Plumber|
|Gerard Rochford||Sky News from the Garden of Eden|
|Curtis D Bennett||Troopers|
|Christmas Truce 1914-2006|
|John McCrae|| In Flanders Fields (The First
World war poem on
which the above was based)
|Frances Green||Last hope|
|Marianne Griffin||Dancing deer|
|Ann-Marie Spittle||Eternal soldier|
|Simon Icke||War has no winners|
|Sankalp Patnaik||A blade of grass|
|Jagannathan Viswanathan||War and Silence|
|Stephen Walshe||Home for tea|
|John C Bird||Diners (about Paschendaele)|
|Thoughts for the months.
I had the idea of writing something about the topics of war, peace and war poetry every month. I kept it going for a short while with the help of one or two others including the Arch bishop of Canterbury, Aung San Su-Chi, and a former president of France.
David Roberts, Editor, The War Poetry Website
Sky News from the Garden of Eden
( Iraq – 10th April 2003)
through a hotel lounge
A girl sits with her family –
Her dress is thin
as this paper;
her terror as white.
She holds up her hands
like wheat to the scythe.
This gesture says:
We are nothing, spare us.
We will live unseen
beneath the body of a tank,
claim no sunlight,
drink rain, eat insects.
Not even her eyes have fire enough
to touch those terrible gods.
Within this year
her dress will be rags,
she will grow old,
while others gather silk
around their bellies,
deal in gold.
Perhaps she's already dead,
in camouflage of dust,
owning no grief - no grave,
no mark but this frail surrender
on my screen.
I switch off:
my tears leave nothing but salt.
Gerard Rochford lives in Scotland where he works as a psychotherapist. He is closely involved in the poetry scene up there.
Old men do war
they do it well;
with bunkered hands.
It’s all they can
through flaccid nights;
these civvy warriors
on foreign fields.
In snug cathedrals,
under skeletal flags,
they pray for peace
This could be about either British or American kids, but a sense of what
they personally deal with in a combat situation.
Curtis D. Bennett
In quiet dignity, they trudge their war,
Weapons ready, line on line, in dusty, desert boots
Walking the crowded broken biblical city,
Where rivers of black, human excrement
Trickle the shadowed alleys and cobbled streets.
The helmet mounted mirror- visors reflect the loathing,
The hostile, seething resentment and hatred,
Emanating from the dark and silent, watching people
Born and native to this ancient desert land.
There is a unique poise about these troops,
A quality not found in peers,
The special bearing, common only
To young men in combat.
They bear a stoic, resignation,
A façade of wary acceptance,
A weariness in their movements
As they slowly walk the war.
Struggling with its elements,
And inside, struggling with themselves,
For just below the surface,
They keep the well-known secret,
The haunting fear and cowardice, common to all.
Twenty-four–seven they walk that line,
Living up to their reputation,
Assuming the swagger, the hard line,
A casual indifference to death
That masks their deep seeded fear of dying,
The overwhelming urge to break and run,
The paralyzing instinct to freeze or hide
While silently praying in secret
That whatever happens, they won’t look bad!
That is why they are at war;
For this is where they would rather be
Then face the shame of not going,
Of being accused of not having “it,”
To uphold that fragile concept of honor
By placing their reputations on the line.
So proudly, they carry their reputation,
For that is all that remains of their dignity,
Even if it means...they must die for it.
Curtis D. Bennett
6 March 2007
(May 1, 2003)
The Navy aircraft eases down across the ship’s fantail,
And slams on the deck, engines screaming,
Its hook catches the number two wire
Jerking it quickly to a pitching stop.
The wire drops away and it taxis to the bridge.
Emerging behind the pilot and crew
From the old gray Viking aircraft,
He steps out from the shadows
Into the warm, afternoon California sun
Sparkling gently from a cloudless, blue sky,
Shining the calm Pacific Ocean off San Diego.
The man is on a mission of great importance,
He advances purposefully, marching
Down the polished, steel deck
Of the anchored carrier, Abraham Lincoln.
His new boots are spit-shined and polished,
The new nomex flight suit is highly starched,
His torso harness gleams; stiff with crispness,
The metal buckles shining brightly,
With the complex webbings perfectly aligned.
His new, Mae West life jacket has original tags.
The sleek, nylon G-suit, cinched a little too tightly.
On purpose, to demonstrate one’s manhood.
Like a bow-legged gunfighter, he strides meaningfully
Across the glinting deck cradling his new, white helmet
He casually salutes left then right at the crew,
He turns his head; he nods indifferently to the crowd, ,
Then stops, raises his right hand, smiles coldly,
And turns in a full circle waving like a queen
To be lustily cheered by baseball capped Officers
And orderly, rank and file mobs of sailors.
Like Caesar returning triumphant from the Punic Wars,
President Bush basks in the adulation
As he benevolently waves, smiles and nods
Then points at the huge sign over the bridge
Declaring "Mission Accomplished."
Twenty minutes later the "Commander in Chief"’
Reappears from the steel, grey island,
Carefully dressed in his dark, blue "power" suit,
(with an American flag pinned on the lapel)
He stands straight and tall on the platform,
Almost Presidential in both bearing and stature
Before the TV cameras and clusters of microphones.
He leans forward in his most serious demeanor
To declare: "Combat Operations in Iraq have ceased."
He steps back; smirks a smile at his minions,
At the swelling thunderous applause and cheers,
Of the captive military audience on the deck
Lustily cheering the American "War" President,
Their Commander in Chief, whom they all must trust,
With their very lives and future.
He has finally proclaimed those special words,
Words they have longed to hear,
Because now, they believe the war is finally over.
Because now they can all go back home to their loved ones.
Half a world away the sun has long set,
In the deep, cold, Indian Ocean night,
The shadow carrier glows faint running lights
Rising, falling as it pitches, and plows,
Smashing heavily through rough seas.
A bone chilling wind howls down from the north,
Wailing as it whips the dark, slippery deck.
Lurching from the shadowed, steel island door
A bundled Navy pilot emerges,
Hunching down low against bone-chilling cold,
Leaning against buffeting winds.
Zippered flight boots are scuffed, well worn,
The weathered, crusty flight suit grimy and damp,
Stained in salt-sweat rings and earthy smells.
Under his armpit, a holstered automatic snuggles.
Tarnished, metal buckles of G-suit and restraining straps
Jingle and chime, clanking the night.
Adorned in faded patches of squadron heraldry,
The old, green flight jacket is zippered high,
The flight bag, with helmet, kneepad, and maps,
Dangles loosely in gray-green gloved hand
Approaching the looming ghost airplane.
There, the plane captain watches,
As he makes a cursory inspection
Around the aircraft left to right,
The small flashlight piercing the mist,
Glancing along under long, silver wings
Dripping in armed bombs and war weaponry.
He climbs the ladder, straps in,
Drops the canopy locking it tight,
A quick signal to the plane captain,
The "Huffer" blows heavy air to the turbines,
The pilot casually lights off his engines.
Which grumble, spin up, and roar to life.
He taxis to the catapult for a "night cat shot,"
A procedure, in retrospect only, is a Naval Aviator’s favorite,
That can only be experienced, not described to mortals.
The plane is hooked to the steel catapult bridle
As shadowed sailors dimly lit in pale deck lights.
Check connections and give hand signals.
Seconds later he salutes, locks the throttles forward,
Engines scream to one hundred percent.
He lights the primeval heavy afterburners
And launches in a slam of heavy "g’ forces,
Roaring over the pitching bow into the night.
Gear and flaps up, ease the stick back,
To disappear in the deep black clouds,
To shortly emerge from the mottled, cumulus
That covers the distant land below in darkness.
As high above, stretches the vastness of space
Unfolding so deep and so far beyond the mind,
Beyond the limits of mortal man’s imagination.
It watches with patient, immortal eyes,
This troublesome neglected corner of the galaxy.
While to the west, a waning, half-moon shines low.
Silver-highlighting the cobblestone mantled clouds
Washing them softly with pale shades of greys.
The dim cockpit lights glow greens and reds,
Radios hum soft static in the background,
The aircraft turns to heading, adds power, and climbs north,
A frequency switch to a distant controlling agency.
Checking in crossing the beach, "feet dry"
Automatically readying armament switches.
The moonlight slowly crawls the silver wings,
Its soft, luminous light blushes the aircraft.
Sailing miles above the sea of clouds.
Throttles ease back to cruise the night.
Sweeping radar paints the darkness ahead,
Where ancient, mountainous lands marches the scope
There, lurking, hostile enemy terrain awaits,
Appearing so still and peaceful in the night,
Where death, destruction, and danger
Patiently wait with watchful eyes
For the approaching aircraft’s attempt,
...To accomplish the mission.
Curtis D. Bennett
(May 1, 2003)
Christmas Truce (1914-2006)
A modern poem which was inspired by a First World War poem and an historical event. Readers familiar with the poetry of the First World War will know the poem by the Canadian, John McCrae, In Flanders Field. It appears in both anthologies mentioned opposite and is printed again below.
And if you are familiar with the history of the First World War will know of the remarkable events of Christmas 1914 when British and German troops stopped fighting and someone started to sing a Christmas carol. Soldiers from both sides came out of their trenches and started to chat, share cigarettes, cigars and jam, and sing songs together. They buried their dead too. The next day they went back to killing each other.
These two ideas are developed together in the new poem by Curt Bennett
First, the poem which inspired the new poem:
In Flanders Fields
By Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Christmas Truce (1914-2006)
In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row
That mark their place; and in the sky
The larks, still sweetly singing, fly
Are heard without the guns below.
Here are the dead from years ago,
Where in crude trenches filled with snow,
They kept the watch o’re no-man’s land,
Their country called, they took its stand,
Here they will fight; here they will die.
In Flanders fields.
On Christmas Eve through frozen sky,
Across the void where dead men lie,
Men’s voices sang the holy hymn,
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
And Christmas magic filled the night
And in that fading, winter light,
Men lay down arms and stopped the fight.
They rose from trenches deep in mud
And walked the fields of dead and blood,
To greet the other, man to man.
As men, not soldiers, offered hands
To others born in foreign lands,
Where for the first time they could see,
The young men called the enemy.
They gather close to share a smoke.
They talk, they laugh, they share a joke.
As human beings, common folk
Their truce held all that Christmas day,
They buried dead men where they lay.
Too soon, that day drifts in to night,
They part in evening’s dusky light,
Return to trenches for the fight,
Too soon, the fragile truce will end,
Too soon, they’ll kill a newfound friend,
For winds of war blow cold and rage
In Flander’s fields.
Their war is now a dusty page,
From ancient times, another age,
And through these many years they sleep,
With no more promises to keep.
Though poppies grow and larks still sing
In Flanders fields.
Curtis D. Bennett
To top of page
Poems by DL
His military experience and life today.
"I spent nine years in total in
the army, in the Royal Corps of Signals, as what the army calls a
Communications Specialist (Electronic Warfare). Basically the Army's
I enlisted in 1989, when the world appeared (on the surface at least) a very peaceful place. I was only three months out of training when posted to Saudi Arabia one week after my 20th birthday. Since EW operators are rather thin on the ground, and signals intelligence is a vital role in any military operation, we tend to be amongst the first units deployed to any trouble spots.
In the space of my ten years service, I served in
(in chronological order) Germany, the Gulf , Bosnia under UN command in
1993, A 12 month tour in Northern Ireland in 1994-5,then back to Bosnia
for six months with NATO in 1996. Finally a six month tour with the UN
in Cyprus in 1998 before being injured in a training accident leading to
my discharge on medical grounds late in 1998.
I started writing during my UN tour in Bosnia in 1993, writing about home to my family, mainly as a means of escape from the bitter conflict which surrounded us and the sheer frustration of the UN's rules of engagement, which had basically reduced front line combat troops to "body counters". I gradually began to write more about the events I was involved in, as a means of release (a very common occurrence I see with the other contributors to the warpoetry website). This has continued since then, and I'm currently engaged, (when I have the time in between working and raising a family) in writing a biographical account of the events of my life, mainly the damage that war can do to all it touches, and moving on into normal life."
On Returning Home
(Written whilst on leave, after completing a UN tour in Bosnia, 1993.
Christmas is happening,
All around, people laugh, play,
Shop, looking for nice things to give,
The world hasn’t changed,
It’s all as it was before,
Happy, carefree people,
You go about your lives.
If bliss is caused by ignorance,
We are one blissful nation.
You pass me in the street,
As you hurry to buy your presents,
Gifts that cost you dear,
But have only weeks of value
For those who will receive them.
You pass me by, you see another happy shopper,
One of your own, nothing unusual.
Yet only I know where I’ve been;
Only I know what I’ve seen.
Last week I was watching,
Last week I was a witness,
A witness to the worst that man can do,
A house, a home for a happy family,
Merely wanting to live a pleasant life,
Now burned into charred flesh and ashes,
All killed, all slaughtered, all destroyed,
Last week, I saw this,
Just last week.
Still you all shop,
Spending your money, carefree,
Untouched by war, this land of peace
For fifty years, this land unburned.
Yet a few hours journey from where you consume with joy,
Hate consumes life with fire,
You know it’s happening,
It’s all on TV, yet to you, it’s a distant affair.
So far away.
Yet it isn’t so far, it’s here within me,
That distant image on your TV screen,
Etched into my battered soul.
While you walk beside me,
You don’t know what I’ve seen,
That I still smell the bodies,
While I shop, while I walk amongst you,
Emptiness in my heart, for all time.
In centuries past,
They say they fought against them,
They killed their kind,
Difference their only reason.
Old men told tales, Chetnik, Ustase, Muslim,
Of the evil that they did,
And in their eyes, glory filled with pain.
Now it's their turn,
Their dreams are burned away.
The former victims rise all for revenge.
This is their turn to hate, ,
For the past crimes of those long dead
Re-enacted, decades on, reversed.
This time it is they who burn.
The spiral descends,
Death creates more death,
And evil walks the land once more.
The children watch, as those around them die,
They learn new tales,
To keep the cycle whole,
And in their eyes, their pain waits its turn.
There's no reason,
Just lies excusing inhuman lives,
As each night innocence dies again.
Madness becomes normality,
And distrust is common sense,
The next generation bides its time,
Till it too can act, and kill for revenge.
As I sit here, in this torn country,
How can I write?
What can I say?
I can assure you, I can comfort,
Say I am fine, that all is well,
I can lie, to ease your fears.
The food's not too bad,
We're all getting a nice suntan,
Sunbathing's quite fun on the top of a Warrior.
The weather's been good,
People used to come here on holiday,
Used to come and have fun,
And you can understand why,
Well, at least so long as the wind doesn't change.
The air up here is so pure, so clean,
Such a beautiful country,
You'd love to come here for a walk in the woods,
And the mountains are just stunning!
All these picturesque villages,
Up here in the Balkans, they all look so serene,
Well, at least so long as the wind doesn't change.
The people are quite friendly,
They're always pleased to see us,
Well, most of them are anyway.
Then the wind changes.
The clear pure air is replaced in an instant,
By the smell of the rotting corpses in the minefield down the hill,
No one dares to bury them, for the snipers are out,
And they'll shoot those who bury their dead.
The people are friendly, well, the ones without guns,
For they know that if we're outside,
The bastard militia won't burn them to death
While their family is sleeping at night.
So what do I tell you?
That all is ok? I'll have to, the truth is too much.
So I'll write of the weather, the smiling children,
And hope that the wind doesn't change,
At least until I've finished my bluey.
(Based on experiences of the Gulf War 1990-91)
The sun is failing, failing to light the way.
The whole world looks to burn,
As the earth spits fire into the sky.
The invaders took what they could,
But as defeat loomed closer they acted,
Like common criminals they stole,
Then burned when they could take no more.
The oil wells burn on, through the days,
The sky sheds black tears and dust,
Through the darkness the fires rage,
As the earth bleeds flames and smoke.
Flames light our way now, the sun cannot get through,
As the fires burn on without respite.
Turning everything to black.
My skin is coated, an oily blackness,
My food and water taste of oil,
Desert sand turns black under the remorseless blaze,
As the oil continues to rain down.
This is war against the earth,
They poison the sky,
To the East, the sea is black.
They have stolen, robbed, and now burned,
At midday it's night-time, and the world is corrupted,
With oil, soot and flame.
We continue to push on,
Driving through the image of Mordor,
Of hell made real by man.
For information about DL please see the notes at the end of the first poem.
Desert Skies under Blackout
We squat here in the dark,
A menace to life, to all that we oppose.
A mighty force of destruction,
We wait in silence for the time to fight,
Confident in our strength, in our power to un-create,
We wait, hiding our lights,
Better that the enemy can see nothing,
Better, to ease his impending destruction.
We wait, and night falls.
Then, we look up.
Our mighty army is rendered nothing,
Insignificant beneath the sky.
The desert sky, under blackout,
It is a pure glory, an infinite universe of stars,
Forced down onto our eyes,
We look into the beautiful endless expanse,
Stretching on into time before us,
Light older than humanity falls upon us,
And the pathetic force that we can offer.
All that we are is nothing before this,
The mighty army of our country,
Defeated by the sky.
We gaze, off into infinity,
Unblinking into the night's beauty,
Billions of stars, galaxies, planets, life immortal,
We are waiting to unleash horror,
In a place where all faith was born.
Beneath this sky, all faith is conceived,
Developed and dies, beneath the crushing splendour,
The impossible beauty,
The desert sky, under blackout.
Beauty in Fire
Through the clear sky it is coming,
High above the earth, it begins to fall,
Glowing light trails towards them,
They cannot run now, they can only hope,
As the lights fade out towards them.
Light, blinding light,
Pure and incandescent, white, orange, yellow, red,
Flowers of lethal beauty that bloom,
Bloom in violent glory, scattering over the ground,
High explosive falling as cherry blossom.
The earth shaking like the rage of an angry God,
The world transformed into power and light,
I watch awe-struck as the show continues,
Fire rising high into the night,
Blast-waves shaking the very air,
Man’s ability to create such beautiful toys,
Man’s ingenuity liberated from restraint,
To create such beauty, such violent glory,
An MLRS* bombardment.
Then I remember.
That beauty is lethal, and men have just died.
*Multiple Launch Rocket System. The launcher is carried on a huge lorry.
It can fire 12 rockets in 40 seconds or 2 missiles in 10 seconds. Range:
up to 190 miles.
(Written after the Anti-War demonstration against Iraq, 2003.)
When you wave your banners,
You protest and rant,
Your indignation worn like a medal,
Remember those who you condemn.
We are not mere automata,
We are not blind to injustice,
We made a decision, to try to serve,
Though whatever our reasons.
We did not ask for this.
We joined through pride, through loyalty,
Or boredom, and need for adventure,
But whatever our reasons, we all joined to do some good.
We don't blindly obey, and act without thought.
But neither are we perfect.
When you wave your banner screaming "Not in My Name",
Try to remember this.
We willingly offer to lay down our lives,
So you can keep the right to condemn us,
We offer to die so you are free to condemn us,
And we do so in your name.
We are all someone's son, someone's daughter,
Lover, Husband, Wife, Father, Mother,
We are all human beings too.
When you condemn the events that our country creates,
Remember that we didn't choose them.
We willingly give our lives to our country,
And we give them to defend it all,
The good, the bad, the immoral or righteous,
We cannot be selective in where we act.
So when you march and you chant,
In anger and frustration,
Remember those who are doing what you hate so much.
Remember that they decided to do something right,
But protest against those who used this for wrong.
Our soldiers are ordinary men and women,
Who all have lives, love and dreams,
They stand for the freedom you use to attack them,
So please try not to condemn,
We soldiers are human too.
To top of page
I am the Eternal Soldier
Though my body breaks
My soul goes on
Through the jungles and the deserts
Across the mountains and the seas
Whither I am called I go
Though my mouth moans
And my body aches
I push on
Until the objective is done
The opposers disperse
Or I am called elsewhere
As one battle ends
Always with myself
The battle is the greatest
While you break, I bend
When you fall, I walk on
Always expected to be courageous
Always expected to be brave
Always the first to charge
While others stand behind me
Like fearful children
Hoping I will kill the big bad wolf
I am the eternal soldier
Our heart beats as one
Though my body is many
Brothers are we in blood and bone
While around us separation
Takes hold of the individual
Hold my hand
And I will guide you through
For I am Michael, soldier of Angels
My heart is true
To the cause of my country
That others may not suffer
The horrors of the past
Walk with me if you dare
For mine is not a path lightly taken
Brave heart, brave feet
Brave voice, brave action
These are our creed
And our battle cry
Ann-Marie Spittle © 2006
A neglected First World War poet who was once very popular
Henry Chappell, 1874-1937
Introduced by Susan Sawyer
My great grand-father, Henry Chappell, was born in 1874 and died in 1937 aged of 63.
He became famous over night with his poem 'The Day' published in
the Daily Express on 22nd August 1914. It was translated into many languages.
He also had poems published in the Daily Express (I think) on a regular basis.
He became known as the 'Bath Railway Poet' as he was a porter on Bath Station. As far as I know he was never in the forces, but he turned down promotion to keep in contact with people as they were his 'inspiration'.
He had a book published in 1918 entitled 'The Day and Other Poems'. of which I have a copy. There are several copies for sale online at
He also wrote a book about the railway called 'Life on the Iron Road'. It seems that after the First World War he became forgotten. The Daily Express must have many of his other poems in their archives. Also visit www.powell76.freeserve.co.uk as there is a poem of my great grandfather's on that site called A Soldier's Kiss.
Unofficially it was suggested he should became the new Poet Laureate. He was close friends with Rudyard Kipling and knew other famous poets of the time.
I feel he should have more recognition than he does at the moment,
recognition being practically nil.
Here is the poem.
You boasted the Day, and you toasted the Day,
And now the Day has come.
Blasphemer, braggart and coward all,
Little you reck the numbing ball,
The blasting shell, or the "white arm's" fall,
As they speed poor humans home.
You spied for the Day, you lied the Day,
And woke the Day's red spleen.
Monster, who asked God's aid Divine,
Then strewed His seas with the ghastly mine;
Not all the waters of the Rhine
Can wash your foul hands clean.
You dreamed of the Day, you schemed for the Day;
Watch how the Day will go!
Slayer of age and youth and prime
(Defenceless slain for never a crime)
You are steeped on blood as a hog in slime,
False friend and cowardly foe.
You have sown for the Day, you have grown the Day;
Yours is the harvest red.
Can you hear the groans and the awful cries?
Can you see the heap of slain that lies,
And the sightless turned to the flame-split skies
The glassy eyes of the dead?
You have wronged for the Day, you have longed for the Day,
That lit the awful flame,
'Tis nothing to you that hill and plain
Yield sheaves of dead men amid the grain;
The widows mourn for loved ones slain,
And mothers curse your name.
But for the Day there's a price to pay,
For the sleepers under the sod,
And He and you have mocked for many a day-
Listen and hear what He has to say:
"Vengeance is mine, I will repay."
What can you say to God?
Henry Chappell, 1874-1937
To top of page
A blade of grass
Harassed greens across the land,
Trodden paths which played the band,
Shells of hell from air were manned.
A generation dwarfed, in body and mind,
to mother and child, the sound unkind,
roasted skin, a burnt night,
come ye' cannibals, have a bite.
Ego, suspicion, hatred and revenge,
fuel for manipulation and discontent,
show of strength, over the years,
tables now turned, face shamed with tears.
Low life expectancy, probability even still,
love extinguished, greens harassed,
trodden paths which played the band,
shells of hell from air was manned.
Charred face of Earth, no footsteps to hear,
a solitary blade of grass, in army gear,
ready to battle another shell,
before the day man unkind fell.
Flying bullets, deadly whispers,
wailing mothers, helpless lovers,
trampled and scorched, I have seen it all,
your only hope, now I stand tall.
Firm on my roots, a sense of duty,
get a sense of your roots, be firm on duty,
don't nip humanity of its bud,
water the seed, and revel in the blossom,
Just a blade of grass, I look up in the sky,
no sun, no water, why is mankind so dry?
wake up to the call, or burn below the lens,
pledge today to harvest human kindness.
War and Silence
( Inspired by "Baghdad ER")
Before the war there are the vile taunts and howls of men
Who consider some of their brethren less than human
And want them removed from the face of the earth
They bay like wolves searching for prey
Then there is the unending threnody of death raining form the sky
Mortar Bombs, Artillery Shells, Napalm Bombs and Missiles
And sometimes even an earth shattering atom bomb
They screech and scream like the warning sirens
Is there silence in war?
Yes at the end for those who don’t survive cannot hear
And those who are alive are deafened by the sounds of war
You can say there is dead silence except for the ululation in the wake.
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I welcome you to this place,
this venue of Global Progress.
Here, shall the new be brought in and
the spent, old, discarded.
Welcome to this...civilisation.
You now stand at the audit to a new generation:
a new breed of thought and deed.
More powerful than the ones before,
they do not follow the rules of 'logic'
Reason, instead, follows them and
is at their beck and call.
Very versatile, as can be seen:
One reason explains all!
You are welcome, to roam about and
explore all that we offer you.
Go on, go about,
play, jump, prance,
jump off that cliff; go on, take a chance.
Welcome, O' Mortals, to this
Brave New World.
It is now yours till,
of course, you maim, murder, kill;
Eventually destroy it.
Before this Brave New World,
we had a street on which we built our homes;
yes, homes, not houses.
So, we thought
one day, it all blew up and
as the fires died down,
as we went through the shattered remnants of
our past lives, we knew.
We knew that they were just...
From Mumbai, India. Age 17 (2006)
A tribute to the airman of the Second World War
Home for tea
Broken down tower
Many have passed this way
And trodden down grass and flower
Many have left never to return
Some came back with injury unseen
Some came back with an ugly burn
Many came back with broken mind and body lean
Frightened minds in disarray
But still on they fought
Above the wild sea so grey
Under a heaven so fraught
Unknown foe in roaring machine
Must attack from overhead!
Out of the sun unseen
Fire! He’s hit! A fiery ball of red
Victory roll and casual wave
As over the field they roar
Engines growl and tyres scream
As into land they came
Hits reported, damage seen
"I saw him go down " Was the claim
Planes repaired, ready to go
To fight the Fight once again
This I feel and hear from my broken tower
As down I look at the runway overgrown with flower;
To reality I am returned
By a voice with eyes too young to see
"Grandpa, can we go home for tea "?
Stephen Walshe 1997 ©
This poem was written early in 1997. My father sadly died in September of that year and never got to hear or read the thoughts that had been put to paper about his and all the other young RAF men in WW11 who like my father are and were still proud of the duty they performed for the future generations whether they are grateful or not!!
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The rats dined well at Passchendaele,
meat on the menu every day,
a limb, a torso, a tasty entrail,
served fresh in the Trench Café.
For wine they had a vintage red
with a bouquet of acrid water,
lifeblood of the newly dead,
in this consummate place of slaughter.
The brass-hats dined well at Command HQ
in a fine house well back from the front,
men of breeding accepting their due,
recalling good times with the hunt.
Cigars in hand, they passed the port,
raised their glasses for the toasts
to battles they had boldly fought
from secure headquarters posts.
The politicians dined well back in Blighty,
talked of a war to end all wars,
never doubting that God Almighty
was committed to the allied cause.
A minister, fortified with scotch,
at a recruitment rally in Poole,
insisted that Haig was top notch,
not, as some thought, a stubborn fool.
The troops did not dine well at Passchendaele
from a menu written in blood.
Each day they were served the same cocktail
of bullets, privation and mud.
But no complaints from the Trench Café
as the diners gathered en masse
to savour once more the human entrée,
seasoned with cordite and gas.
John C Bird
The Dancing Deer
Climbing up the forest road
I was suddenly plunged into utter darkness,
Dark shadows of the trees
Intersected by diagonal shafts
Of late afternoon sunlight,
One minute golden,
Rosy hued the next,
Dancing, flickering down …..
Upon a sudden leap
Before my disbelieving eyes,
A reckless bound
Into the humming trackway
That would have taken ancient travellers
Upon their country journey,
But now filled with creatures of the space age.
Into the darkness of the highway
Came a sentient creature
Carelessly cutting across the flow
Of mad machines invading his silent home.
There, but for the grace of God,
He leaped ~ high, majestic,
Right in front of me.
For a moment
His rotund fearful eye
Met mine, hearts both pounding,
Exchanging eons of thoughts,
A string of whys and hows.
And then he was gone,
Bounding to safety again in the woods,
Having said all, and I little,
But knowing Man had invaded
His home, and even dared
To kill his kind for food.
And I was so sorry.
My sorrow was for humanity
Sliding down a slippery
Path to destruction;
For life upon this beautiful planet
Which we need to
Be at peace with and respect,
And all her creatures
Like the dancing deer.
12 November 2006
" I attach a poem I wrote a couple of weeks ago after a chance encounter with a deer in the Ashdown Forest *~ fortunately he/she danced away to safety.
My sister had a similar experience, she tells me, up in Rushmoor Woods near Farnborough, but the next time she went down that road she found a similar deer who had not survived her dance through the forest.
I shall be going to the civic Remembrance Day service today . . .
Maybe we ought to read the words of Chief Seattle on Remembrance Day too, and remember that the living planet itself is under attack, every living thing being linked to each other ..... the water, the trees, the plants , whole ecosystems, habitats, animals ... and us humans who are trying to dominate Nature. All nations' God is the same except by name and we all live on the same planet. We are all brothers and sisters, but we do not understand each other's ways, and this is the problem."
* A small forest in Sussex, southern England.
War Has No Winners
When will man ever learn?
What wisdom needed to discern?
No killing is above the law,
No winners in any war.
'We won't put up with their threats,
We'll kill the enemy with our jets,
Top brass to control the press,
Tell the truth more or less.'
'Collateral Damage' is what they call it;
Don't like to say what caused it.
Innocent people blown to pieces,
Don't mention this in press releases.
It seems we never learn from history,
Finding a peaceful solution still a mystery.
We live the lie of "war and glory".
War has no winners, is the truthful story.
Homing pigeons have a long history of help in battle:
Ghengis Khan used them to keep Asia in order;
the Romans learnt of the conquest of Gaul
from a piece of parchment around a pigeon’s leg;
and a single bird brought to England
notice of Napoleon’s defeat.
We are still holding out…
Over 100,000 pigeons
were used in World War one
with ninety-five percent of birds reaching their destination.
Messages were placed in small containers
and clipped around the birds’ legs.
but suffering gas attack
with their very dangerous fumes.
A pigeon’s great strengths were its extraordinary
homing instincts and the speed at which it flew.
The only natural way to counter them was with birds of prey.
But birds were injured by artillery shells -
during the first World War;
one pigeon carried a message successfully
for twenty-four miles. It arrived with a leg shot off
and its breast shot through by a bullet –
It’s imperative to break off.
Give this urgent communication to Sauville
who’s not answering my requests.
and a number of course were killed in action.
This is my last pigeon.
Here comes Dr Plumber
by John-George Nicholson
This is the first time I have ever submitted a poem…if that is what it is. I'm 29 from SW London.
The poem is about Iraq and the US and I guess GB is mixed into that…I was trying to play with the idea of the plumber pretending to be a Dr to help Iraq, when actually he's butchering it, everyone is so blinded by it that they miss that he is actually a plumber and once his job is done off he goes…when I read that back it sounds to simple and there is supposed to be more then that but to be honest its hard for me to explain…
Here comes Dr Plumber
Quickly blindfolds and cuffs at the ready
we need hands that are steady
words and hands that are hygienically clean
he hasn’t scrubbed up yet
but he’s incredibly keen
he’s slick with a knife
and cuts with an art
first to the tongue
and then to the heart
dissects away, he’s gaining a taste
we could be related
with his familiar face
but that look in his eye
is dark and cold
wasn’t he here to save the patient?
At least that’s what I was told
but he’s cutting away, right down to the core
and nobody seems to notice, through the shock and the awe
the blood on the walls, the blood on his hands
the blood on the tube, the blood in the sands
the blood runs red, the blood runs black.
The pipes are finished, he’s turning back.
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Thought for the month
Thinking about war and peace
All war poets and many other people think a great deal about the issues
of war and peace. That may have always been the case but in our modern,
civilised world war is still an ever present experience and a great
concern to all thinking people.
In this column are a few thoughts on current and recent events by an assortment of people - from the President of France to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Oxfam charity - plus some of my own observations.
David Roberts, warpoetry website editor.
Comments on war and peace issues
Archbishop of Canterbury's comments on war - December 2007.
War poetry and combat stress - October 2007.
Archbishop of Canterbury, December 2007 Violence, Iraq, Britain, America, and the role of Christianity -
Extracts from comments made by Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, which were reported in the Muslim magazine , Emel, (issue 39, dated December 2007)
"Whenever people turn to violence what they do is temporarily release themselves from some sort of problem but they help no one else.”
Speaking about Britain’s role in Iraq he said. “A lot of the pressure around the invasion of Iraq was ‘We’ve got to do something! Then we’ll feel better.’ That’s very dangerous.”
With regard to the Iraq war he says he wants to “keep before government and others the great question of how you can actually contribute to a responsible civil society in a context where you’ve undermined most of the foundations on which that society can be built.”
Referring to America he said, “We have only one global hegemonic power at the moment. It is not accumulating territory. It is trying to accumulate influence and control. That’s not working.” He describes this as “the worst of all worlds. It is one thing to take over a territory and then pour energy and resources into administering it and normalising it. It is another thing to go in on the assumption that a quick burst of violent action will somehow clear the decks and that you can move on and other people will put things back together –Iraq for example.”
He describes the role of Christianity as "revolutionary", desiring to bring about "a new creation where our relations to each other are no longer mutually suspicious or exclusive or competitive, but entirely shaped by giving and receiving – building one another up by a community of transformed persons, not just by a new legal system."
Every November we remember the awful loss of life in war
and say "Never again".
This cemetery is near Arras in northern France and dates from the First World War
(Right click to copy photograph. Photo David Roberts, March 1995.)
Poetry and Combat Stress
(Combat stress is also known as: post traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, and shell shock.)
In the First World War, when soldiers broke down, unable to carry on or cope with life military leaders at first condemned the soldiers for "lack of courage". Many were executed. (See the poem The Execution of Cornelius Vane, by Herbert Read which appears in the Minds at War anthology.)
But it soon became apparent that even the bravest of men, when subjected to shocks and horrors of war, could crack up and need special care to help them to readjust to life and to be able to cope again. (For many recovery was only partial. Some never recovered.)
In Britain a specialist hospital was set up at Craiglockhart, Edinburgh - the Craiglockhart War Hospital. It was to this hospital that the greatest of British war poets, Wilfred Owen, was sent in June 1917 for a period of four months. It was here that he began to write his best poems, continuing for just over a year till shortly before his death. (You can read more about his life on this website. See Wilfred Owen's Psychological Journey which is reproduced from Minds at War.)
One of his
poems, Mental Cases, describes the pitiful state of some soldiers he met
in the hospital. This poem appears in both Minds at War and Out in the
Death, destruction, trauma was of an immensely greater order in the Second World War. Civilians suffered on a scale never before known to mankind. In Europe (most of Europe) and most of the rest of the world people turned against war and found peaceful co-existence a more satisfactory approach to life.
The Twentieth Century and into the Twenty-first century many unnecessary and terrible wars have continued. Civilians probably assume that soldiers who return home with no physical injuries or only minor injuries have returned home unharmed. This is often far from true. Sooner or late about half of all ex-servicemen and women will experience serious mental and emotional distress.
The ex-servicemen and their families all suffer. When things become desperate they often contact one of the organisations set up to help. In the UK the largest is Combat Stress which was established in 1919. Some 8000 service veterans are registered with it.
27,000 service personnel took part in the Falklands war. 258 were killed. Twenty-five years on Combat Stress continues to care for 600 Falklands veterans.
Five years ago Combat Stress dealt with five hundred new cases. There has been a big increase in new cases since then and over a thousand new case are taken on a year now.
Many people who have experienced traumatic events, both in and out of war situations, have found that writing about their experiences helps them to come to terms with their experiences and often helps to release some of their torment. Some of them take to writing poetry, often to their own surprise.
You will find a number of poets on this website who have written about their experiences of war in this way. What value is this writing apart from the possible therapeutic effects for the writer? It seems to me that sharing the emotional burden somehow increases the sense of relief. For fellow sufferers it helps them to know that they are far from alone in their experiences. For those fortunate enough not to have endured traumatic experiences it should educate us to the nature of war when we seem too easily to downplay its importance.
Wilfred Owen said, "All a
poet can do today is warn. That is why the true poet must be truthful."
So much of the power of Owen's poetry comes out the truth of his experience. The same power can be felt in many contemporary poems on this website. See, particularly, poems in the Falklands War pages, and new poems this month by Graham Cordwell.
I admire the courage of these writers and thank them for their willingness to share their thoughts and experiences with us.
Graham Cordwell would like us to draw attention to www.theabanddonedsoldier.com
Combat Stress can be visited at www.combatstress.org.uk
Aung San Su-Chi - September 2007
"It isn't power that corrupts, but fear" - Aung San Su-Chi
This month saw the brutal crackdown by the Burmese government on peaceful protesters. Thousands have been arrested and are believed to be being tortured. It is difficult to comprehend how people can commit such horrendous acts against fellow human beings. The leaders in Burma are clearly very frightened indeed of ordinary non-violent people
What has war done for the people of Iraq?
Poets on this website anticipated that the bombing of Iraq would cause a disaster. This it has proved to be. The situation in Iraq today is far worse than it was under the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. This is clearly shown by an Oxfam report which came out at the end of July. The people of Iraq are living in a nightmare world of fear, violence, trauma and extreme deprivation. The following is a brief extract.
From the Oxfam Report, 30 July 2007
Rising to the humanitarian challenge in Iraq, Briefing Paper, July 2007
"While horrific violence dominates the lives of millions of ordinary people inside Iraq, another kind of crisis, also due to the impact of war, has been slowly unfolding. Up to eight million people are now in need of emergency assistance. This figure includes: • four million people who are ‘food-insecure and in dire need of different types of humanitarian assistance’ • more than two million displaced people inside Iraq • over two million Iraqis in neighbouring countries, mainly Syria and Jordan, making this the fastest-growing refugee crisis in the world. . .
This paper describes the humanitarian situation facing ordinary Iraqis and argues that, while violence and a failure to protect fundamental human rights pose the greatest problems, humanitarian needs such as food, shelter, water and sanitation must be given more attention. Although responding to those needs is extremely challenging, given the lack of security and of competent national institutions, Oxfam and the NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq (NCCI) believe that more could be done. The government of Iraq could extend the distribution of food parcels, widen the coverage of emergency cash payments, decentralise decision-making and support civil society groups providing assistance. The international donors and UN agencies could intensify their efforts to coordinate, fund and deliver emergency aid. These measures will not transform the plight of Iraqis but they can help alleviate their suffering. . .
Iraqis are suffering from a growing lack of food, shelter, water and sanitation, health care, education, and employment. Of the four million Iraqis who are dependent on food assistance, only 60 per cent currently have access to rations through the government-run Public Distribution System (PDS), down from 96 per cent in 2004. Forty-three per cent of Iraqis suffer from ‘absolute poverty’. According to some estimates, over half the population are now without work. Children are hit the hardest by the decline in living standards. Child malnutrition rates have risen from 19 per cent before the US-led invasion in 2003 to 28 per cent now. The situation is particularly hard for families driven from their homes by violence. The two million internally displaced people (IDPs) have no incomes to rely on and are running out of coping mechanisms. In 2006, 32 per cent of IDPs had no access to PDS food rations, while 51 per cent reported receiving food rations only sometimes. The number of Iraqis without access to adequate water supplies has risen from 50 per cent to 70 per cent since 2003, while 80 per cent lack effective sanitation. The ‘brain drain’ that Iraq is experiencing is further stretching already inadequate public services, as thousands of medical staff, teachers, water engineers, and other professionals are forced to leave the country. At the end of 2006, perhaps 40 per cent had left already. The people of Iraq have a right, enshrined in international law, to material assistance that meets their humanitarian needs, and to protection, but this right is being neglected."
The full report should be able to be read at
We have had a problem with this link, but it did take us to the Oxfam website. Once you get there click on Policy Papers 2007.
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President Chirac, July 2007
"War is always the worst option," Jacques Chirac, former soldier,
President of France, 1995-2007.
Israel calls for the abandonment of violence
The Six Day war took place forty years ago, from 5 to 10 June. Egypt had closed an essential Israeli waterway, the Strait of Tiran, and placed troops on the Sinai border. Israel made a lightning attack and destroyed the entire Egyptian air force, soon to be followed by the Syrian and Jordanian air forces. Israel rapidly gained control of Palestinian territories: Jerusalem, Jordanian territory of the West Bank (of the river Jordan), the Golan Heights, and the Sinai Peninsula including the Gaza Strip.
This led to an increase in the persecution of the Palestinians by the Israelis which continues to the present day. Of course, both sides have endured terrible suffering but all the might is in the hands of the Israelis. Their ongoing treatment of the Palestinians is an outrage condemned by much of the world. The UN General assembly has time and again called on the Israelis to withdraw from Palestinian territories and return to the borders as they existed before the six day war.They refuse and talk of peace whilst taking more and more of Palestinian land, and bombing and kidnapping Palestinians, including elected Members of Parliament.
The Israelis, with the EU, Russia, the UK, the US and the UN demand that Hamas and its supporters in Palestine abandon violence. This would be a good idea if Israel, the US, EU, Britain and others would themselves also abandon violence.
We are privileged to have poems on this website by the distinguished Israeli poet, Elisha Porat (and transcripts of interviews with him), British Jewish poet, Felicity Currie, and the young Palestinian/Iraqi/American poet, Farrah Sarafa.
David Roberts, www.warpoetry.co.uk website editor.
"War is the opposite of civilisation," Michael Longley, Irish poet.
The month saw the twenty-fifth anniversary of the start of the Falklands war. On 2 April 1982 Argentine troops invaded the Falkland Islands in the far south Atlantic, off the coast of Argentina. This land had been held by the British for over a hundred years. By the time the war finished, on 14 June 1982, when the Argentine troops surrendered, 254 British servicemen and 750 Argentine servicemen had been killed.
Many were maimed, and many returned home emotionally scarred for life. Something of what the troops experienced and how they are still affected by this war can be read on this web site in a remarkable series of poems by James Love and Anthony McNally. Not to be forgotten are the families of men who served in the Falklands. See the poem by Cesca M Croft for her lasting experiences.
The poor Argentinean conscripts no doubt suffered in a similar way, but they did not return home to heroes' welcomes. According to a BBC radio programme this month, they received little support or comfort on their return. An exceptional number of them committed suicide. We have no poems about their experiences.
The war was popular in Britain. It was a war of defence. Was there an alternative? Should the islands and their inhabitants have been abandoned?
See The Falklands War including poems by James Love,
Falklands War Poetry including poems by Anthony McNally, also Northern Ireland,
Poems by Cesca M. Croft,
It is four years this month since the invasion of Iraq. From web sites (15.2.07) the losses include
655,000 Iraqi dead
3,168 American dead
133 British dead
23,677 Americans seriously injured (US wounded and air-transported 32,544).
(from www.stopwar.org.uk and links)
This plea is addressed to members of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign but clearly non-members can help too.
A plea from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign:
End the siege of Gaza – End Israeli occupation
PSC calls on its members and branches to take urgent steps to highlight the crisis in Gaza.
The siege being imposed on Palestinians is making life a living hell in Gaza. The World Food Programme has said that food imports only cover 41 per cent of demand. Palestinians are suffering from hunger and malnutrition, and those seriously ill are being prevented from accessing essential medical treatment outside Gaza by Israel sealing the borders. Israel is cutting fuel and electricity supplies, and 210,000 people are able to access drinking water for only 1-2 hours a day. Over 40 Gazans have died as a direct result of being denied medical treatment by the Israeli authorities. Twenty per cent of essential drugs and 31 per cent of essential medical supplies are no longer available inside Gaza .
The Israeli, EU, US and British governments are systematically attempting to overturn the results of the last Palestinian parliamentary elections, declared free and fair by the international community. This siege is punishing Palestinians for simply exercising their right to choose their own representatives.
But an even greater assault is on the horizon, with senior Israeli figures making clear that if their policy of imposing a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza does not succeed in ensuring that Palestinians submit to the will of the state of Israel , they are preparing for massive military action inside Gaza .
We therefore ask members to write to your MPs urging the British government to immediately:
Demand the Israeli government lift the siege and ends all collective punishment imposed on the civilian population of Gaza Demand the EU restores funding to Gaza Respect Palestinian democracy and engage with elected Palestinian representatives Ensure Israel release the Palestinian elected representatives it has abducted and imprisoned Support the suspension of the EU/Israel trade agreement until Israel ends its occupation