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.