A War Quartet

The Mediterranean 2014

Blood on the sand. Salt water runs in the wounds.
It is a hundred years and time heals. A people gathers
At the tide’s edge, swims in a bleary sea
where the genetics of a century mix in water too shallow
to drown, to warm to chill. Affluence is anchored
deeper – hulls gleam in the sunlight, tumblers flash
and are emptied. A youth tombstones the bay.

Belgium 1815

We are gathering the victory at Waterloo, The bodies
of the dead are stripped and flung in pits, their keepsakes
and their bloodied shirts are taken with their unvalued lives.
But a grateful Belgium knows their worth. A few years pass,
the flesh retires, the pits are opened and the bones
are sold for glue. Cowards, heroes, fathers,
sons – are boiled away to bind the books
of civil trade. No trace remains. A mound of earth,
a reputation for its c-in-c, and a boot or two.
No rusted buckles, nor shrapnel harvest in the fields;
no shred of roughened cloth, still lingering, to touch.

London 1914

The world has changed, we’ve left the charnel house.
And it’s a hundred years with many lessons learned.
Censuses have built our families in place.
We all have names, our bloodlines traced like farmer’s
stock. And death is certified, no end is ever lost.
So all are waiting for the test of war when faith
and dream can show their strength against the bullet
and the bomb. Words fill the air like Maxim’s gun.
The rifles cleared and listed. The lads in uniform
and clean. The officers alert and fed on someone’s
wine-red plan. The starter’s gun is fired.
Great engines turn. We’re off! Towards our buffered
ends, with carriaged certainties brought bustling along.
And empires of hope have taken to the skies.

The Mediterranean 2014

It’s a long way to Tipperary. To the marching boys,
the crowds of cheer-on heroes tired of peace.
Now past times hunker in the woods a continent away.
We dig into the sand – our bodies glisten in the heat.
A leisure camp for sunburnt skin relaxing on the
tributes of a distant war. It’s so easy to forgive the past
With so much good achieved. A roll call here
would sound the names our forbears left behind –
on all the monuments of war that shaped
the landscapes of so many ordered graves.
Fall in then and stand your watch with them.

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