This was a New War

It has a new scale of reference
vast, vicious and unforgiving
death for millions will be anonymous
machine gun arbitrary and indiscriminate
shelled and shocked, barraged and buried
no whole corpse to recognise as human
no remains to mourn and grieve
just rich blood and bone for Poppies
growing strong in the Flanders’ fields.

Landscape resculpted to barest bone
earth desecrated and destroyed
every old tree and young bush uprooted
tossed like feathers to the blackened sky
debris swirling in the clouds of poison
gas and the putrid stench of burning flesh
in pyres that smoke and stink for days
just fertile ash and dust for Poppies
growing strong in the Flanders’ fields.

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The Lost Boys

In Neverland – never to grow old
never to marry that sweetheart
never to have children and grandchildren
nor watch hair thin and grey.

Full of derring-do – more dash than discipline
lanky and loose-limbed they swank and saunter
not like soldiers at all
no doff the cap humility
to the old rules and distant monarchies.

From a newly stolen world
hardly secured or steady with itself
lodged on the edge of a vast continent
clinging to a rim of turquoise blue.

Now cramped
in the pock-holed sores of ancient lands
richly bone-dusted from time to time.

Waiting for the fight to end
to go ‘back home’ ‘over there’
to farms and factories; schools and stations.

Still there – left behind
in the archipelago of cemeteries
as far as Fromelles, Pozieres,
to Bullencourt and Paschendaele
in fields of beetroot and corn,
fields bleeding red with poppies
beside the Menin Road at Ypres
in bluebelled woods of Verdun
in the silt of the Somme
on the plains of Flanders
in the victory graves at Amiens

Monash’s boys – the lost boys
cried for their mothers
begged for water
screamed to die
hung like khaki bundles on the wire.

Commanded by Field Marshalls
who never went to the fields,
who played the numbers game
in a war of bluff and bluster,
who never touched the dirt and slime,
nor waded through the bloody slush
of broken men and boys,
never waist-deep in mud and sinking,
wounded and drowning in that shambles of a war

Wearing dead men’s boots
and shrapnel-holed helmets
tunics and leggings splattered and rotting
with dead men’s blood and brains

Some haunted boys came home
knapsacks full of secret pictures,
old rusty tins crammed with suffering
breast pockets held their grief
wrapped in shroud-shreds.

They brought their duckboard demons
to the world of peace
Gas-choked fretful lungs still brought
the caustic fumes with every breath exhaled
and from every pore the death-sweat of decay.

But most boys were lost boys
lost forever in that no-man’s land
that Neverland of lives unlived.
© M.L.Emmett

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The Somme Sunset

Sun swollen
reddening as it sank
that brutal bloody disc
scored by church steeples
and chimney stacks
almost lost in the drifting haze
of sulphurous yellow
and char-black smoke.

Duck boards dip
into the sodden earth
as men tramp along in conga lines
holding tight the pack of the man
in front, lest they should slip
lose quick their footing
be sucked down and smothered
by mud.

The walls of the tunnels
are packed earth
rich with blood and bone
bits and pieces of human
anatomy dangle and hang
as if posed by an artist
with a strange and cruel eye
for detail.

The scrabble for fox holes
and rough scraped ditches,
anywhere, below the line of fire.
The ting and whiz-bang
of a night of action
The whistle, the dash
and the forward push
counted more in men
than metres.

© M.L.Emmett

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Zerfallender Kampfgraben ~ Collapsed Trenches

In the aftermath, in Dresden
my new objectivity was too real
and confronting for the Weimar Republic
and its brown shirt undertow.
And as their tide reached high water,
my teaching post, lost
lest I infect the young with truth
I moved to the south to Lake Constance
ordered to paint peaceful landscapes

But this is the landscape of my life
the landscape of war that etches itself
in my nightmares and dreams
it itches my skin in the scars and puckers
of my shrapnel pitted wounds

After the nine day barrage at the Somme
everything we’d packed into the trench wall
buried out of sight and scent
cascaded like a muddy, bloody waterfall
and bathed the corpses baking in the sun
nibbled by the dainty, tearing teeth
of Hamelin’s scourge, the only living thing
apart from me, it seems.

I am posed in a still life
bleeding slowly beneath an uprooted tree
languid limbs are draped or dangling free
spines scoliosed in curls and loops
prison bars of rib cages cracked open
skulls rotted clean to greasy marbled bone
this landscape is my legacy for you.

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The Somme Offensive 1916

For nine days the artillery barrage
rained down on us
that June of summer in the Somme
machine gunners like me waited
in our concrete bunkers deep in the earth

When the shelling stopped
we rushed to the surface
and began our job of mowing down
the slow walking British Infantry
stoically advancing as if in another war
in another time where they might choose
to die bravely and with honour
a hero fighting for his life
his king and country

But here he dies unknown
by the chance turning of my gun
in his direction at that one moment
and the random number of bullets
left to fire.

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Words

We live in a wired and weird world

where meanings of our words

are paper-thin tissue and torn

tarnished and worn by wear and War.

 

© M.L.Emmett

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Summer Solstice

blue-star-night-image

The cram of stars in the navy-night

blue-light of summer solstice.

 

The majestic zodiac sprawled

across the ever-stretching sky.

 

Ancient definitions of myth

star-stories of pre-determined fate

 

mapped in the moment and place

of our birthing; such fantasies

 

such imaginings of stellar systems

and mankind’s significance.

 

Heavens and humours; rules and rights

from Gods to kings and subjects

 

All settled in an ordered Universe

until, curiosity, ingenuity and invention

 

observation and record, rigor and Science

with its license to question freedom.

© M.L.Emmett

 

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The Other Side of Words

abstract artwork with writing, artwork is created and painted by myself

On the other side of words

beyond adjectives and metaphors

beyond comparisons

and differences

beyond actions and tenses of verbs

and  even beyond the definition of noun-names

there, the dead are asleep

in a wordless ever-night

a never-light, twilight

on the other side of words.

 

© M.L.Emmett

 

 

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A REVIEW

Well activated practical response.
Rehearsals really paid off on the day.
Brilliant touch with bus transport for victims;
Space blankets well deployed for shock effect;
Dramatic improv by Paramedics;
Nurses, medicos and casualty staff
showed great technical E.R. Skills – Bravo !
Plenty of pizzazz and dash as always
from the nifty, London Ambo drivers;
Old fashioned know-how from the Fire fighters
in hosing down the fireworks underground.
Dangerous rescues were undertaken,
accomplished with buckets of common sense.
And what can one say about those Bobbies,
jolly good show, the lips unquivering
and universally stiff, no mean feat
in this Premiere season tear-jerker.
Nail-bitingly brittle, but a smash-hit
Poignant misery and stoic suffering,
fortitude, forbearance and lots of grit
Altogether was quite tickety boo.

July-2005-bombings-memorial

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What We Knew

In the pit of our stomach we all knew,
but we kept on deep breathing and hoping
this nauseous reality would pass.
The weary inevitability
of horrific disasters such as these.
Strangely familiar like an old newsreel
Black and white, it happened long ago.
But its happening now right before our eyes
satellite pictures beam and bounce the globe.
Twelve thousand miles we watch the story
Plot unfolds rapidly, chapters emerge
We know the places names of this narrative.

london-bombing darkness in tunnel

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is all subterranean, hidden
from the curious, voyeuristic gaze,
Until the icon bus, we are hopeful
This public spectacle is above ground
We can see the force that mangled the bus,
fury that tore people apart limb by limb
Now we can imagine a bomb below,
far below, people trapped, fiery hell;
fighting to breathe each breath in tunnelled tombs.

Herded from the blast they are strangely calm,
obedient, shuffling this way and that.
Blood-streaked, sooty and dishevelled they come.
Out from the choking darkness far below
Dazzled by the brightness of the morning
of a day they feared might be their last.
They have breathed deeply of Kurtz’s horror.
Sights and sounds unimaginable before
will haunt their waking hours for many years;
a lifetime of nightmares in the making.
They trudge like weary soldiers from the Somme
already see the world with older eyes.

LONDON - JULY 7: Paul Dadge (R), 28, helps Davinia Turrell, 24, to safety at Edgware Road station following a series of explosions which ripped through London's underground tube network on July 7, 2005 in London, England. Blasts have been reported on the underground network and buses across the capital. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the surface, they find a world where life
simply goes on as before, unmindful.
Cyclist couriers still defy road laws,
sprint racing again in Le Tour de France;
beer-gutted, real men are loading lorries;
lunch time sandwiches are made as usual,
sold and eaten at desks and in the street.
Roadside cafes sell lots of hot sweet tea.
The Umbrella stand soon does brisk business.
Sign writers’ hands, still steady, paint the sign.
The summer blooms are watered in the park.
A tramp stretches on the bench and wakes up,
he folds and stows his newspaper blankets;
mouth dry, he sips water at the fountain.
A lady scoops up her black poodle’s poop.
A young couple argues over nothing.
Betting shops are full of people losing
money and dreaming of a trifecta.
Martin’s still smoking despite the patches.
There’s a rush on Brandy in nearby pubs
Retired gardener dead heads his flowers
and picks a lettuce for the evening meal

Fifty six minutes from start to finish.
Perfectly orchestrated performance.
Rush hour co-ordination excellent.
Maximum devastation was ensured.
Cruel, merciless killing so coldly done.
Fine detail in the maiming and damage.

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