Photo©Andrew Hill
The poppy has become the emblem of the British war dead, the cornflower (bleuet) is the emblem of the French.


There were poppies once
along the bank beneath the hedge,
they cut them down,
the poppies and the blackthorn too
to make it easier for machines
to mow and plough, and all the red
ephemera a memory.

We used to know once why we wept,
and why we praised the countless dead,
those young men who will not grow old,
whose bones lie cold.

Cut down like poppies on the bank ,
they died like heroes in the mud,
so we could start another war
and kill so many millions more.

Red poppies used to grow, they say,
but progress blew them all away.

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.

33 thoughts on “Poppies”

      1. Yes. I think about how fortunate my son-in-law was to have survived three deployments. I think part of him still loves that excitement, even while recognizing the horror.

  1. That’s a very timely poem. I wasn’t aware of the cornflowers representing the French with the emblem. We sometimes have poppies in America for veterans, but it’s way more common to see American flags or red/white/blue designs around.

    1. Thank you. America is much more nationalistic than we are, all that flag waving and my country right or wrong stuff isn’t really part of European culture. The nation has a place, but it isn’t the sacrosanct monolith that is in the US.

      1. No problem. I’ve certainly noticed that about America growing up. Even when I visited Ecuador, there were nowhere near as many flags in a given area besides government buildings or some flags for sale at tourist shops. That’s an interesting insight with American vs European culture. One can be patriotic without waving a flag 24/7. Good point. There’s patriotism and there’s just plan overdoing it.

      2. It’s when patriotism, allegiance to a flag, become sufficient reason to perform atrocities, that it is no better than terrorism.
        Europeans don’t worship their flag. They have been drawn into enough conflicts down the centuries to know that it’s political and military leaders who cause wars and demand that armies go out to get butchered not ‘nations’.

      3. Yeah, people have done horrible things while showing too much affinity for a flag or symbol.

        That makes sense with Europeans not worshiping the flags of their respective nations. Good point about armies being on the front lines in these wars as opposed to nations because that is the reality of these conflicts.

      4. I don’t like to see rows and rows of men and women marching, kids saluting flags, people acting like robots. When you get people behaving as if they share the same brain, you can make them do anything.

      5. Extreme patriotism can be a hive-mind of sorts. This being an election year REALLY didn’t help given the current political atmosphere in the US and that’s not getting into the covidiot aspect for this year.

    1. Thanks Liz. Every year I get more angry with the outpourings of poppies. It only started recently, each year trying to outdo last year’s extravaganza, as if the millions dead give a toss about their expensive displays drawing massive crowds. People wanting to give their tear ducts a beating. Have any of the pious outpourings and breast beatings prevented a single conflict breaking out? I can’t stop thinking about the horror of the Great War and how our thoughts ought to be geared towards condemning the system that allowed rich old men to send out a whole generation to die for nothing, and for those young men to go, many with a smile, believing in the con trick because in those days, the ordinary folk did what their betters told them. Sorry, I could rant for hours about this.

      1. I get where you’re coming from. I mean loads of young men left New Zealand for the Great War and never came back — madness! Even tiny rural localities here have war memorials with names of those who died. Sometimes just a memorial near the road and not a single other building anywhere nearby!

      2. The Americans make a big thing of anything military, but it seems to be in UK where they have really gone over the top with the public ‘grieving’, the naming and shaming of people who don’t wear a poppy. What has kept them out of more world wars has been the EU not poppies!

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