Category Archives: War

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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Filed under Poem, Sunset, War

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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Filed under Art, Poem, War

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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Filed under Poem, War


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


Filed under Language, Poem, War

The Damned and Damaged Warrior

I am the damned and damaged warrior
Mighty presence on an arid plain
Waste-land empty and scorch-scarred parched
Looking to the dazzling dawn
Of another baking, aching, dry day
Of another dying, desert year.

They watched bold marching
Fearful tramping
To each pitiful skirmish
And every blood-hungry moment
Of all the days and nights.

They watched corded muscles
Spasm and seize
With each call to stretch and pull
And drag the weary-worn
To fight again.

Let no man call with shrill-shriek of the owl
Across the night-filled silence
Let no-one ever whisper in the dark, dearth
Across the shadowed chasm

I am alone within a purple shade
Night-cloaked in cunning strange
I am the time-deadened, weary watchman
Locked in a forever-circle of despair

Manacled with lead, banded with steel
Tight twisted and knotted by a skein of silk
Woven tightly by the softest hand
Strengthened by certainty and pure calm
There is no escape to unearth

But death
Is skirting the edge of existence
Picking at the loose threads
Teasing and niggling the fraying filaments
Laddering and snagging
And pulling, pulling out beyond time
The winding-sheet, the sack-cloth shroud
The only closing choice.
© M.L.Emmett 04/08/98
revised 31/08/2014; finally revised 16/02/2016.

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Filed under Mind, Poem, sadness, War

Slaughter Circle

300 year old Oak Trees at Oak Alley Plantation Louisianna









The scent of death
lingers for years
in a place

lodges in the soil
and slowly compresses

composting down
deep down
in dirt

the earth turns
and the seasons pass
time and space and silence

until the coiling roots
draw back again
and all that grows

from baby’s tears
to blood red poppies
oaks and elms

bear testimony
to the forgotten
© M.L.Emmett

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Filed under Death, Poem, War