11 November 2014

Remembrance

By the war memorial in Barker's Pool at eleven o'clock today
In the middle of Barker's Pool stands Sheffield's  unusual war memorial. It is a flag pole with the bronze statues of four soldiers at its base. Their heads are bowed. This year more citizens than usual assembled to show their respect for our war dead and to remember them at eleven o'clock on the eleventh day of the eleventh month - Armistice Day. There was an unbroken two minute silence and we knew as we stood there that that silence was being replicated at thousands of memorials around the country - from St Agnes to Skaw and from Belleek to Lowestoft. 

And I thought of my paternal and maternal grandfathers - two men who didn't know each other but both fought at The Battle of the Somme. What things they must have witnessed! But like most who went to The Great War, they came home. In a sense, they are the forgotten ones. They do not belong to "The Glorious Dead" and I was thinking of them as I wrote this poem within the last hour...
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Old Soldiers

For all the boys who came home
To those who could not weep
And those who could not sleep
Who trembled in dark bedrooms
Wincing at their demons
Their secret shame
Who yelled unreasonably at their kids
Fought  their frightened wives
Drank hard
Or retreated deep into themselves
Lost in no man's land alone
Who still heard the booming
Still smelled the awful gas
Shivered yet
In knee-deep mud
Twenty years past
Or thirty or more
Their names uncarved in Portland stone
We also give our thanks to you
The lucky ones
The boys who quietly came home.

9 comments:

  1. Lovely poem YP. The ones who came home rarely talked about the horrors to their families so there must have been a lot of demons to deal with on their own. There was no counselling or "Help for Heroes" in those days.

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    1. They had very little support. Stiff upper lip and al that. Be a man! (Oh, Good Golly Miss Molly, I don't mean you!) Thanks for reading my little poem and appreciating it.

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  2. It's moving that it went so well in Sheffield. Here it was still a bit too noisy.

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    1. A primary school teacher had brought her class of mainly Asian children. It was nice to see them there and they were quiet and respectful. They had crafted some wreaths of their own. It was like they are genuine British citizens - assimilating at last. All they need to do now is say goodbye to Allah.

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  3. Beautiful poem YP. A thought captured so well with words.

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    1. Thank you Carol. I can't seem to access your blog. Has it been mothballed as you suggested it might be?

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    2. I just had a problem with my sponsors YP ~ their cheques bounced.

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    3. Oh yeah, I forgot that you were sponsored by "Vegemite".

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  4. A wonderfully moving poem of the reality faced by so many.

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