POETRY, as we all know, has immense power: to stir up our emotions, to soothe our pain, to capture a fleeting moment of beauty, and of course to honour those we cherish, past and present. So this autumn, as we remember the centenary of the Armistice of the Great War, we dedicate Poets’ Corner to those who fought for our nation and made the ultimate sacrifice. The immense talent of you, the readers of “This England”, is evident in every poem submitted to us, and in this brief selection you’ll find themes of love, loss, hope and even futility. Therefore, with any luck, there will be a verse that speaks to you, which you can turn to and take some comfort in through this time of remembrance and reflection.
Lest we forget.
And while in many ways the horror of war and the devastation wreaked by personal loss is beyond words, may we find peace in the beautiful words of “The Transition” by Gillian Walsh.
THE TRANSITION (FOR MARY)
Don’t picture me as past and gone; I’ve only crossed the stream, And though dimensions separate, There’s just a veil between. Don’t speak of me in past tense words, For as long as love remains I’ll reach you through the realm of dreams, As well as memory lane. Don’t think of me as a life that’s lost, Though on earth I’ve had my day, But imagine me as a soul set free, No more than a thought away.
Capturing the vulnerability of hope, yet its ability to endure, Judy Drazin strikes a melancholy tone in “Girls In Thin Dresses” to transport us to another time and place.
GIRLS IN THIN DRESSES
On summer Sundays, When evenings uncurled Delicately Like young ferns, We who were tender still In our thin dresses Went to the gardens To hear the music Spilling its message Of love. Boys in Sunday ties With hair sleeked down, hover Awkwardly, Some shy, others advancing Clumsily, Or boldly, As the band plays on. Dusk falls, The bright flowers fold their petals And the music quickens Imperceptibly, Telling of heartbreak, loss And the dark side of the moon. But the girls in thin dresses, shivering Deliciously In the night air Dream only of love.
Meanwhile, John Tatum succinctly expresses a sense of hopelessness in “The Path On The Downs”, an important emotion to allow and acknowledge, harking back to the futility felt and captured by the World War I poets such as Wilfred Owen.
THE PATH ON THE DOWNS
The path slips sideways; clods Rumble down the slope. Perhaps it’s time to stop awhile, Take stock; though what I hope To find might end in tears: A contemplation of those wasted years. It seems all paths, like this, Have led to nowhere, Except to dreams that could not last. Now I can only stand and stare out Across the world below, As if distance could reclaim the past.
More optimistically, David Fleming strikes an affirming note to comfort those facing bereavement or enduring loss in “If The Dead Could Comfort The Living”.
IF THE DEAD COULD COMFORT THE LIVING
If the dead could comfort the living, I know they would, Reaching out with spectral hands To wipe away each tear. If the dead could talk to us again Their voices we would hear, Soft and true, Telling of worlds and places new. Their hands and voices would be kind To those they loved and left behind. Our memories and feelings would not
fade, For those we lost who went to the
grave. If the dead could walk with us again They would be there by our side. But, oh, we would miss them so, When they turned once more to go.
David Fleming THE ANNIVERSARY
The wind blows wild, I stand erect, Saluting stiff to show respect. Thoughts of many years gone by, Of friends remembered where they lie. I hear the bugles calling us. Like sheep, we follow with no fuss. But fear screams out from every pore, The taste of death; the shells of war. Loud blasts that shatter, spit and flame. A hell, an evil, dangerous game. A battleground where death was met And we who lived could not forget. The cold, the mud, the rats, the noise. We never lived, now, did we boys? Over the top we tumbled on, Someone’s sweetheart; someone’s son. We thought it would be done that night. Adventure, lads, let’s go and fight! How wrong we were to think this way: So many dead, not here today. Someone made poppies bear the blood Of all the fallen in that mud. The beauty of the silky red Spread fields and trenches of the dead. The smoke, the smells, the rotting feet, The memory that I can’t defeat. Blown off limbs and cries of pain, I’m back with those I knew again. Men weeping, sobbing for their loss. I ask now, “Was it worth the cost Of bodies strewn from here to there And poor old “Tommy”, know not
where? “A war to end all wars,” they said, But all those young men now are
dead. The dreams, the hopes, the lives of
worth Are gone to dust, returned to earth. So on this bleak November day I think of Johnny, Fred and Ray And hold the hearts of all those slain And promise not to war again. But seems that man will never learn, That war will maim and kill and burn. For no, the fight is not yet fought: Man has not listened as he ought. Remember how they suffered so And all of this was so we’d know A freedom quite unlike they had, Which leaves us feeling deeply sad. They, who on this eleventh day, We honour much and humbly say: “For all you gave and lost, my friend, Will live for ever, without end.”
A powerful and moving verse, “The Anniversary” is one to read on Armistice Day. Written by Anthea Gilling, it is the first poem she has submitted anywhere and we are delighted to be the first to publish her work.