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.