Beneath black skies and scattered stars
The trenches weave like unhealed scars
The land between shell gouged and sown
With broken bodies of men unknown
Their souls held fast by cloying clay
Or wire’s barbed and coiled array
As we march forward to fight and die
The ghosts of the already dead sigh.
Wraiths watching us poor sods that live
With only our wretched lives to give
Comrades in death
We differ not, from the wrecked limbers
broken bodies or splintered copse timbers
That lie strewn over no man’s land
We differ not, we who can still stand
To shake a limb at a shrieking shell
Or crouch in terror in this unholy Hell
We differ not, as we curse the fates
That brought us to where death awaits
He seeks us out. The machine gun’s scythe,
Snipers bullet or shrapnel. We fall and writhe
In trench, shell hole or hung on barbed wire
For God, King and country we die under fire.
Ask not what happened or how did I die
It matters not where on this battlefield I lie
My soul will make the long march home
Along tree lined roads, across fields loam
And to our door walk through blossom scent
To hold you to me in sorrowful lament
And wipe the warm tears from your face
For you held me close in this heartless place
When in trembling terror I wept with fear
When the heat of battle my mind did sear
Hold in your memory the man you wed
Not the soldier in this war where virtue fled
I am working on a epistolary writing project and needed poems that the main character , a WW1 soldier, would have written. I composed these poems which I hope capture the tone and style of the time.
It was a short walk from the Post Office to the address on the telegram. Rather than send the boy he decided to personally deliver this bad news to his friend. At the door he paused to look up the familiar street, peaceful in the late spring sunlight. Paused to remember, try to recall happier times.
He knocked, listened to the footsteps approach along the hallway he knew well. The door opened. He was relieved it was Alex.
“George.” Said Alex, looking at the small square telegram offered to him by the Postmaster. Alex, his reluctant fingers failed to grip the telegram which fluttered to land soundlessly on the pavement. Alex slowly bent down to pick up the message of death; his three sons were in France, in constant danger. As he stood up their eyes met.
“It’s for Laura.” Said George. “It’s addressed to her.”
“Clem, then.” Said Alex, his mind a confused maelstrom of emotion; guilt at the good news that his sons still lived battled with the grief that his daughter’s beloved husband’s name would be written in the dark ink.
Then, a voice behind him broke his train of thought. Broke his heart.
“Faither, what is it? I heard Clem’s name…….”
Alex turned around to face his daughter, reached out to catch her as she fell, her life, her future slipping through his fingers.
My story is of how I imagine the news of my grandfather’s death was delivered.
When the war ended one of Clem’s comrades visited Laura to tell of how her husband had been wounded during the Third Battle of Arras. With his hip shattered he had been laid in a shell hole for shelter until he could be picked up. He was never seen again and he was formally presumed dead in February 1918, one of 36,000 dead at Arras.