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A small collection of poems by Danny Martin

Haddock of Mass Destruction
Reports of War
 A Mason Sharpens his Chisel

Danny Martin's introduction

I am an ex soldier currently in the third year of an English and Creative Writing degree course in Liverpool. I was in the army for just under seven years, leaving in early 2006. I completed two tours of Iraq, totalling one year over there. Most of my poems are based around my experiences during my second tour (TELIC 6 in 2005), when I was serving as team signaller on a Tactical Air Control Party, mainly based around Maysaan province.

The following are a few poems that I have written over the past two years.

November 2008.

Haddock of Mass Destruction

Brain bored and arse numb
Finally the blades spun and we lifted
Skimmed the palm trees and popped flares above the Euphrates
We swooped low over the target truck
Then landed in its path

We charged in our Storm Trooper costumes
Blinding faceless shapes through dirty glass
With rifle mounted lasers
We were jumpy
We were ready

I dragged the driver from his seat
Slammed his face into hot tarmac
Held it there with my suede boot
Steadied my hands long enough to cuff his

We searched his packed pick-up
Boxes stacked four deep five wide
Emptied in the dust on the roadside
The first box revealed ice and fish, and the next
And the next, and the last

Intelligence had said he was armed and dangerous
Armed with melting ice and defrosting cod
No match for our guns, our bombs,
Our good intentions, our morals
Our God

We cut his cuffs, and his wife’s
And left them to their ruined stock
I should demand commission
From the Taliban
For every recruit I’ve converted to their flock.

Danny Martin

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My thanks to Hollywood
When you showed me John Rambo
Stitching up his arm with no anaesthetic
And giving them “a war they won’t believe”
I knew then my calling, the job for me

Thanks also to the recruitment adverts
For showing me soldiers whizzing around on skis
And for sending sergeants to our school
To tell us of the laughs, the great food, the pay
The camaraderie

I am, dear taxpayer, forever in your debt
You paid for my all-inclusive pilgrimage
One year basking in the Garden of Eden
(I haven’t quite left yet)

Thanks to Mum and thanks to Dad
Fuck it,
Thanks to every parent
Flushing with pride for their brave young lads
Buying young siblings toy guns and toy tanks
Waiting at the airport
Waving their flags

Danny Martin

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Do away with medals
Poppies and remembrance parades
Those boys were brave, we know
But look where it got them

Reduced to line after perfect line
Of white stones
Immobile, but glorious, exciting
To kids who haven’t yet learned
That bullets don’t make little red holes

They rip and smash and gouge
And drag the world’s dirt behind them
Remember lads, you won’t get laid
No matter how good your war stories

If you’re dead
So melt down the medals
Fuel the fire with paper poppies, war books and Arnie films
Stop playing the pipes, stop banging the drums
And stop writing fucking poems about it.

Danny Martin


Do you lose sleep from the knowledge you’re sending them?
At the thought of those lives, and your part in ending them?
Beam a grin at us as you taste a school dinner
You sinner
Do you taste bile from the truths and your selfish bend on them?

Stern faced, wear your poppy, lay your wreath
The voters love all that, don’t risk offending them

War was fun for a while
Now things are fucked, and you won’t be mending them

I returned from the lions’ den
Some places friends went, I’m glad I’m not yet joining them

Danny Martin

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Note about Portland Stone
Portland stone is the preferred material for many war memorials, including the Cenotaph in London and the new National Arboretum in Staffordshire. During a recent visit to the Arboretum I was struck at the sheer size of its main war memorial, and the vast blank slabs waiting to be filled.  - DM


was first made
of wood;
a temporary tree
for the “Glorious Dead”.
Wood can’t hold the will
of the wolf.
So us little pigs
build in stone now, it lasts
longer. It can be added to
That monument to “the war to end all wars”
spawned more.

Portland stone
is a blank canvas.
It wants to be filled.
It craves names.
It lusts
for the chisel tip.

Danny Martin



Reports of War

Before I grew old, I was made of stone
Granite; igneous, solid.
Before sand wore
down my chiselled jaw, dulled my steely eyes.
Salute this hero!
With twenty one guns, salute!

In my home hear echoes of that salute
ricochet off walls of plaster, and deeper, stone.
While souls of heroes
freeze to a solid
mass. Their eyes
iced shut by war.

My pen only moves to write of war.
Its marks will spell a scrawled salute
(yes, yet again), and I’ll
talk about names carved in stone
again. It’s solid
to avoid repetition when the end of heroes

is here. What now for these who thrive on heroes?
Who gorge themselves on fruits of war?
Who found an excuse, and so led
the armies, took the salute.
Purses of power freefall to stone
broke. Tabloid outrage sparks in their eyes.

Can you see your heart in their eyes?
A heart aching for heroes;
a heart of ice, a heart of stone?
When you get your own kicks from war
(like the goose bump prickles you feel when Hollywood heroes salute)
You make the future of war more solid.

Future of my skin, future of my solid
core. I’ll
twitch in my sleep – nocturnal salutes
to that drawing down of blinds. Blinds that rose
again in the morning. War
repeated. Like names carved in stone.

If you get solid at the thought of heroes.
If you feel wet pricks in your eyes at the thought of war.
Salute the man. Salute the stone.

Danny Martin

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One day I’ll be dragged back East-
collect all my bullets
from scattered holes
Dig them from walls,
grave rob for them-gouge
skulls for their precious lead

Laden, bulging
at the hip, I’ll fly club-class to Heathrow
With all the energy of my regret,
I’ll melt them

Let their cooled mass form my tomb

 Danny Martin


A Mason Sharpens his Chisel

He turns the handle – blisses at the cool
wood’s touch.
It soothes his blisters. Calms his sores.
His palms
bear second-hand wounds of war.

He continues the family trade;
schooled by his dad: how to nick and chip
and bore through stone. How to feel
the rhythmic score
of clink

                                                To groove with his tool.

Clink – it’s the sound at the front line.
Where hammers blow.
Clink where steel wounds stone.
Where wounds become names,
and once a year troops march by in slow time
their chance for glory

Danny Martin

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Day One, Thud!
My first attack; a mortar.
I put on my lid and jacket (to protect from flak)
and crawled under my bed. 

Day Two
Day Three
Day Four
Thud Thud Thud

Day Thirty, Thud!
Helmets are sweaty,
body armour ruins the tan.
I took my chances in the sun,
drained out the tiresome thuds
by turning up my ipod. 

Day Forty: Thud, Thud, Thud.
This time a drum
beating the slow-marched steps
of coffin bearers.

Day Forty One, Thud!
Under the bed dust becomes slimy paste
soaking up sweat as it settles on my face.

Danny Martin

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