Only the fearful

For Jilly’s days of unreason challenge.

“Fear makes for good servants

and bravery is fraudulent”

~ Jim Harrison


Only the fearful are truly brave—

the mother, house bound by tradition,

mute and respectful,

on her flimsy threshold,

facing up to faceless soldiers,

the thrush hidden behind leafy branches

mouse-like in her discretion,

a fury when the marten pries.

Not the gun-wielding hero,

decorated for some massacre

perpetrated on the defenceless.

The Eternal Flame does not burn for mothers,

only their glorious sons.


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.

26 thoughts on “Only the fearful”

  1. Ecactly.
    I recall being taught about Dorothy Lawrence. She was a journalist who posed as a man to become a soldier during World War I – making her the only know English woman on the frontline during the First World War. It is said a soldier found her an old run down isolated shack for her to return to, a bolt hole to gather her second wind. But only those who are fearful are brave enough to try.

      1. I know women who have been afraid of partners abuse and have come from parental abuse so believed it was their worth … one day, they let their brave kick in and they learn their worth. But the world call them weak for not walking away or finding their brave earlier. Bravery comes in all guises. 😯😕😇

      2. Yes, it does, and the world has no room to criticise when women are taught from being small that the man is always right, you will always be wrong (and sinful if you’re religious) and if he hits you it’s because you provoked him.

  2. I believe it was Twain’s quote about courage not being the absence of fear, but acting in spite of the fear. If we fear not, are brave or just foolish? Love your poem! As for Harrison’s view on it – my favorite line of his is: “Unlike a lot of writers, I don’t have any craving to be understood.”

    1. Thank you 🙂 I always suspect that those who claim not to be afraid of something that scares me witless are simply completely lacking in imagination. I think Harrison has a lot of company in the obscure poetry drawer. There seems to be a school of poetry that teaches a poem is good if it’s so abstruse in its argument as to be unintelligible, and at least half the words it uses are words nobody has ever heard of.

    1. I know there are brave soldiers, and there are heroic soldiers, but mainly soldiers are in the business of obeying orders and killing whoever they are told to kill.

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