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The classic poems of First World War, popular poems of the time, lesser known poets and a wealth of background material.

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Anthology of First World War poetry recommended for students and the general reader.

Illustrations include contemporary photographs.

Poetry about the Second World War

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Thomas Crofts

Poetry by Thomas Crofts

Poems on this page are:







Notes may be found after the poem.

for Manadel al Jamadi

I have heard them coming, with booted foot

stalking in my chamber,

with long small arms

and gore-bespattered uniforms

my grave dysarthria become to them

a thing of wonderment

 for hours it seemed I might escape

with only a deformity—

however shocking—mangled hands and feet,

retaining power to destroy mansions.

 The women visit me again

again unzip opaque disaster pouch, 

they crouch and grin,

all thumbs and blinding teeth

for pix which you can download here,

and then depart.

O, how I am constrained.

All is changed, changed utterly

thorough my gentleness

to a strange fashion of forsaking.

 but look at me: head frozen skyward

my breast weighed down with ice

Thomas Crofts

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dysarthria - difficulty pronouncing words as the result of damge to the central nervous system

Manadel al-Jamadi -  Information from Wikipedia
Manadel al-Jamadi (Arabic: مناضل الجمادي‎) was an Iraqi prisoner who was tortured to death in United States custody during interrogation at Abu Ghraib prison in November 2003. His name became known in 2004 when the Abu Ghraib scandal made news—his corpse packed in ice was the background for widely-reprinted photographs of grinning U.S. Army Specialists Sabrina Harman and Charles Graner each offering a "thumbs-up" gesture. Al-Jamadi had been a suspect in a bomb attack that killed 12 people in a Baghdad Red Cross facility. 
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Are people going to get hurt? Yes.

Are people going to get killed? Yes, they are.

Innocent people blown to smithereens? You bet.

Thousands of them? Sure.


that fascinating but cryptic


of candor, conjured from verbiage opaque

which like satanic Latin

doth decline from fair 

but let us try to clear the air

He retains an air of modesty…

What I want you to know, and then I’ve got to go,

what you must know is that I just don’t know
the soldiers know—boy do they know—

and what I’m hearing from them is it’s hard work

it’s hard work and it is difficult work

it’s not easy work

Hey you just asked that,

and I answered it to the best of my

ability. And I’m not going to answer it again.

although it is a very vague modesty

What’s MY job? Well my job is to know; to predict; and to direct.

Can I really do those things? Can anybody? Can you?

Let me just put it this way: it’s my job: it’s what I do.

My path is wide and long to tread,

and hath a greater compass

than men can know:

For mine is the drowning of bodies in the sea;

Mine the prison cell remote;

Mine is the strangling, and lynching by the throat;

Mine is the insurgent whisper deadly;

The plotting and the poisoning of men;

I do revenge, and punish openly,

And I dwell in the sign of the lion.


Mine be the contagions,

And all the wicked plots of old.

My very look engenders pestilence.

So weep no more: I’ll give it all my diligence.

Why does it say Saturn there?

Because I ripped that off from Chaucer. that’s why.

It’s a war I’m telling you.


You see, there are choices,

and every choice you make affects all the other choices you make,

including the ones you might have made

on that day

or the ones which on another day you didn’t make.

Can’t you understand that there are known unknowns and unknown unknowns?

Can’t you grasp that simple, elegant, vital truth

and put it in your mind, and think it, and see it, and feel it and know it,

and know that it’s true?

This is a war.

Is there going to be blood? You know there’s going to be blood.

Sheets of blood? Yes.

A fucking flood of blood? Probably.

Children dissolved in acid? Guts

hanging out of the burst-open bodies

and other bodies like burnt bacon

hanging from bridges? Probably.

Is it worth it? You bet it is.

Do I have dead baby parts in my hair

and in my eyes and underwear?

Do I drink wine from children’s skulls?

Are my testicles full of blood?

Does blood stream from my nipples?

You bet it does and I’ll tell you why:


Thomas Crofts

Moloch - Old Testament deity to whom parents sacrificed their children.



Say I died not on the field of battle—

I never fought—

but under the wheel’s foot.

It was fairly routine.

I mean, I understood the drill.

C’est la guerre.

On the other hand, the entire thing

was an exercise

with a very low probability of success.

I had no curse at the ready

no blasphemous jarhead’s bitch

with which to consecrate or bless

the almighty IED

but just before the flesh was burned away,

and blood pumped into the ground,

waxing (you will say)


I named my rifle Durendal.

Medicine (just then and there)

was a pretty backwards affair:

I stuck my hand in paradise

and woke up with the birds.



‘My lady, about your sending me up to the heaven of Anu your father:

My lady, there was only one god who sat bareheaded, blinking, and cringing at the assembly of the gods.’

‘Go, seize that god and bring him to me!

Ea, his father, sprinkled him with spring water,

And he is sitting in the assembly of all the gods bareheaded, blinking, and cringing.’

--The Marriage of Nergal and Ereshkigal

A quavering voice belies the killing soul

that stalks within my lady’s iron breast

I hear the sclabbering claws, and hear the growl

when, gargoyle-like, she is at rest.

The placid drone that marks her piano style

masks a lust for instruments of pain

which conjure screams from mouths of victims vile.

That is sweetest music to her brain

She with her world-travel and her lust and her lies!

The man she plays and drones and quivers for,

though she thinks him a god, is an imp. Her two eyes

are witching suns

her fingernails are churning blades

her teeth are battle-axes charged with gore.

Her hair a metal helm,

her breasts are burning villages.

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Gargantuan gall,

Elephantine lobe devoid of wit

Opulent pig brain

Regulating appetites


Excusing none from the table of death.

What else do you remember?

Before the feast, I remember

Unctuous words,

Salivating thanks were given.

Hellish, blinding fire rose up.

Just moments later always I hear

Returning ghostly voices, cracked from ear to ear.

Nov. 23, 2003


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For war poetry of the First World War (and information about its poets), plus poetry about, Iraq, Falklands, Sierra Leone, Palestine/Israel, the Holocaust and Vietnam go to: