Poem a Day #25 – Fallen

Skeleton in Trench During World War I

Today (25th April 2014) is Anzac Day in Australia. It’s a public holiday. A visitor to Australia might be surprised at the extent of the commemorations of the soldiers who died in ‘active service’. In particular these days, it is seen as particularly honoring those who died at Gallipoli and in the First World War.

I don’t think there is a greater war poem than Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce et Decorum Est“. The opening lines immediately give the lie to any idea that war is glorious:

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge

There is no way to describe the experiences of men and women during wartime. And yet politicians and military leaders, with their need for simple messages, trot out the clichés every year.

 

Fallen

Anzac Day 2014

They fell

but that’s not all

before they fell

their bodies were pierced

 dismembered

ripped

 maimed

torn

 

they died

but that’s not all

before they died

they screamed for their mothers

 cursed their leaders

 swore foul oaths

 bellowed

 prayed

 laughed at the insanity

or just fell quiet

 

they were brave

but that’s not all

before being brave

they were scared

exhilarated

 terrified

 lonely

                                            wistful

 homesick

 

Some came back

but not all

and those that did

left behind parts of themselves

a limb

their youth

their minds

 their sense of self

                                                                                their innocence

 their trust

 

They were many things

and the pity is

that they did not live to be

what they would have been

 

© Mike Hopkins 2014
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4 thoughts on “Poem a Day #25 – Fallen

  1. I wish more people thought and wrote like you, Mike. We all seem to so wrapped up in the quasi-religious “celebrations these days that forget that war is stupidity. The sacrifice was real – but more often than not it was for national or imperial pride and their lives were wasted.

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