Category Archives: War Poem

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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Filed under Poem, War Poem

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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Filed under Grief, War Poem