It’s no game

For the Secret Keeper’s writing challenge, another cascade poem and the theme is still one that is uppermost in my mind at this time. Old wars and recent atrocities.

This week’s words (I’ve used a couple of synonyms):

GAME | STUDY | SAD | LOUD | BECOME

IWM_ART_001162

It’s no game, say the guns to the men in suits,

It’s no game when the bullets fall like hail,

Just watch the blood red flowers bend and fall.

 

Loud are the last cries and the cannons’ roar,

When earth turns to mud and day eternal night,

It’s no game, say the guns to the men in suits.

 

Sad is not the word for the ocean of tears,

The years and years of sorrow for those left behind,

It’s no game when the bullets fall like hail.

 

Wind shakes the poppies with the voices of the dead,

But there’s nobody listening, no more to be said,

Just watch the blood red flowers bend and fall.

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Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

15 thoughts on “It’s no game”

  1. I’m no expert but for me this is a strong and moving piece of poetry Jane. The scale of loss and pain of First World War is so vast one can hardly fathom or even begin to comprehend it. Have you read Hew Stachan’s incredible history of that war? Magisterial, from one of the foremost scholars, yet very, very readable. If you haven’t got to it, highly recommended. On a separate issue, isn’t it extraordinary how much good, (superb) poetry came out of the First World War, but one is barely aware of any from the 1939-45 War? I expect that’s because 1914-18 was perhaps the last time that poetry was a major public art form, for public discourse, the way it had been for centuries before. WWII produced some very fine novels of course. (I’m thinking in [particular of the unforgivably snobbish Evelyn Waugh, who nonetheless wrote the superb Sword of Honour Trilogy, a masterpiece.) But now I’m struggling to think of any WWII poets. Maybe they thought although poetry could somehow parse the Somme and Verdun, it could not encompass the even greater horrors that lay ahead. Goodbye to all that.

    1. The emotions that the Great War brings to the surface are still very strong. It’s beyond me how anyone can not be moved to tears by the convoluted nonsensical waste of it all. I think we’ve got the Strachan (husband in an historian) and I’m sure I’ve dipped into it. Interesting theory about the lack of poetry that came out of the second world war compared with the wonderful poetry of the first. Newspaper reporting was censored and unreal, there were no photographs, no films. The truth of the awfulness of the trenches could never be told. There has been so much great literature, possibly more from European writers than British, who never suffered the humiliation and privations of occupation.

      1. That’s a very good point, we’ve agreed on this before. Totally agree. As desperate as the war was for Britain, it was far, far worse for the countries under occupation. Think I’m also right in thinking that although people over there of course feel the sense of loss or waste acutely , they don’t speak about the war as “futile” -at least not futile in the sense of “unnecessary”? I imagine they absolutely thought it was necessary to fight the Germans until they (Germans) got out of France. So I imagine you get much less of that sense of “lions led by donkeys” as well. It’s a bit of a canard. Popular, lazy myth, as far as I can ascertain. Obviously terrible mistakes were made: badly planned Gallipoli say, or the first weeks of the Somme, when the artillery barrage just chewed up the whole terrain before their own tropops tried to cross it. And every time mistakes were made, even more soldiers were killed. But those mistakes were rarely, if ever made because generals were dim, apathetic or heartless about sacrificing thousands of their men. The mistakes happened because nobody knew how to fight a war like this, technoogy was new, type was new, and yet because they were under huge pressure to take the initiative and seize victory. The whole thing was just a bloody nightmare. Impossible to take it in. I am re-watching at the moment the 10-part series based on that superb Strachan book. Reminded me again of the extraordinary suffering of Serbia, which had a greater excess death toll than any other nation in WWI. Forced starvation marches, untold thousands dying in mud and mountains and of starvation by the roads. Without doubt all of that set the scene for Serbian consciousness, and sense of loss, trauma and victimhood. Dangerously so. The First World Wart redrew the whole map and set the rules, and mindset, for the rest of the 20th century. And beyond.
        Impossible not to be reminded of Faulkner, : “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past”
        Overused phrase I know, but of genius nonetheless.

      2. The figures for Serbian war dead have always astonished me and I’ve often wondered why they should have been so high. The massacres perpetrated by the Germans in the Balkan states (except Croatia of course) were terrible and completely forgotten by the Dad’s Army mentality. As you say, not surprising the Serbs made no concessions to the Germans or their allies.
        The Great War was just one in a string of wars for the French, and the Italians come to that. They’d had Napoleon dragging them all over Europe, then they had the Franco-Prussian War which was particularly brutal with the north of France occupied and tortured. They seemed to have been fighting the Germans since before Germany was invented. Not only fighting them but being occupied by them, a humiliating position if any, especially à répétition. Barely had they got rid of them in 1918 they were back again. Then there was Indo-China, then Algeria. War has been omnipresent here. But there’s a distinct difference in attitude between the north and the south of France. The north was either a battlefield or it was occupied. The south provided soldiers but it was neither a battle ground or occupied. It makes a huge difference in attitude towards the ‘Bosch’ as they still call them in the north, where every tiny village has its war cemetery. The Brits can make fun of Mr Hitler and the ‘Hun’. The French can’t, not yet.

      3. That is very interesting Jane, and so true about Serbia. Especially interested to hear that difference in mentality between the N and S of France. It makes complete sense of course now that you say it.

      1. yes, my father-in-law was in that way and did not speak much about all those atrocities but reading about it in other accounts is unbelievable our men could live in these despicable circumstances and come home.

      2. Right, most people had no idea of the torment and pain they had undergone for peace. It was a miserable world for them to return to unless they had many friends returning with them they could share with. Their family though were deaf and ignorant to the worst of it all.

      3. If the women who sent their ‘heroes’ to the front, telling them they’d be ashamed if they didn’t go and fight, knew only a fraction of what their men had suffered, how could they have lived with themselves?

      4. Two of my uncles came back with with two nurses from the army camps where they were during the WWII. It must have been so supportive for them to marry these nurses who took part in the war at the front camp with the men.

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