Remembering…

My Grandfather with his wife and daughter; and his son, my uncle – British Army – WW1 and WW2.

Remembering – by clinock.

Long gone now

They both survived the horrors

And became like fathers to me

Loving, understanding and guiding

With pragmatic kindness and patience.

But there were black holes torn

In their lives beyond words and

Their tongues were unable to move

When asked about the war and the war

The never-ending war.

I know from his medals, sleeping in

A box under my bed, that uncle, or ‘Nunc’

As he liked to be called, fought in Europe

And Africa and was a veteran of the Dunkirk landings.

Of my grandfather nothing remains but his dark silences.

Two lives scattered and smashed into mud,

Nightmares, death and unshared memories.

Two lives that sacrificed seasons of love,

Sunlight on green meadows, family picnics,

Puttering in autumn gardens, reading by winter fires.

Instead they slogged through hells that

I cannot imagine, watching their friends ripped apart

By hot metal, drowning in poison gas

Or oil and blood soaked waters.

They wrote home from dripping rat holes

While the sky concussed and screamed.

Shivering with cold and wet and fear they dreamed

Of home and warm clean beds and

The kettle whistling on the stove and

The cat purring on their lap and

Knitting needles clicking and

The embraces and kisses of wives,

Friends and lovers. And peace, blessed peace.

Their bodies survived but something deep inside

Died, something never to be exorcised,

From them or from us.

Protected by tenuous good fortune we believe

We are at peace but the wars continue and

We are not immune from the nightmares of death

And torture in our world. We are never safe from

The Generals and their demon dreams of power.

 

 

Poem by Ts’ao Sung  (ca. 830-910)

 The hills and rivers of the lowland country

You have made your battle ground.

How do you suppose the people who live there

Will procure firewood and hay?

Do not let me hear you talking together

About titles and promotions;

For a single general’s reputation

Is made out of ten thousand corpses.

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14 thoughts on “Remembering…

  1. Hi John, this is a terricfic tribute to your family members who served in the army, the horrors they witnessed and lived! It reminded me of war stories of my family, all more bizar than a movie could be. It is all about power? But to what price? And nothing ever changes it seems. For over a thousand years ago, it was the same. Very good poem!

  2. John, this leaves me with tears and lumps in my throat and chest. My heart goes out to your family and all who suffer so much. Your words also inspire me to be vigilant about choosing my own battles… The tending of the heart is so precious. Thank you.

  3. oh, john, you make me weep. we are so lucky to be in peace in canada now, in our comfortable lives and we do forget those who went before and those who still suffer the depredations of war. never forget.

    1. We are indeed so very fortunate in our comfortable land to be able to look without fear at the unimaginable horrors still haunting our world. It is so hard to take on this burden of pain – some can and I honour them – they are better people than I can ever hope to be. Thank you for your comment Carolyn and you are right – we cannot, must not forget or ignore the bloodshed of the past or the present – we do so at our peril…

  4. Beutifully expressed John.. there are always alternatives to war.. the people always want peace but the Military Industrial Complex does not.. there is too much profit to be had by creating war.

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