Poppies

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

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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.

Eleventh hour

neighbourscemetery

Such a light
and such a crystal-dripping mist,
rising sun-kissed,
pale gold and silver green the sheen
of this morning world,

silence of birdsong and
dry leaves falling, weighted down by dew.

Silence
and we bow our heads, thinking we remember,
dredging up a vague abstraction of tears
for men we never knew,
but knowing we ought to weep.

We bow our heads and manage not to hear
the guns of leisure, still killing,
still having their cruel fun.

Instead, Sacrifice, we say sagely in solemn tones,
gave their lives so we might live in freedom.

A silent war rages now
with no conscription,
no grave consequence for objectors,
the orders simple, just stay at home.
Our sacrifice.
And even this we refuse.

The weeping I hear fills my heart;
It comes from those endless rows
of endless dead, the men
who never had the choice.

Leaving the nest

The Daily Inkling prompt about the hardest nest-leaving prompted me to write about the last time I ever set foot in my parent’s home. I’ve never written about it before. It must be time.

 

There was a stillness about the house as if she had just gone upstairs, or out to buy the bread, an expectancy, a trail of her perfume in the air. I could almost hear her departing steps, the click of the door. My eyes went to the chair by the window that my dad hadn’t sat in for ten years. Exactly ten years. The symmetry was unbearable, as hard as the tidiness.

She had known before anyone even knew she was sick, terminally sick, that it was over, life, living, walking the hills with her friends, nattering with us all on the phone, always a visit planned. She had spent those last weeks folding the linen away neatly, cleaning out the fridge, throwing away everything that was worn or torn or would be of no use to anyone else. Afterwards.

She permeated the air particles with that faint scent of a perfume that nobody else wore. Nothing was out of place. Everything was clean, shelves dusted, the rental paid on the TV up to the end of the month. She had even renewed the subscription at the DVD place, up to the end of the month. By then, the funeral would be over and we would have all gone home.

I wept over every still, faintly perfumed corner of that house where I had never lived. It had been my parents’ house, where they lived. Their nest. But I realised then, in that moment of sitting in a front room that had never been mine, with siblings around me, together as we had so rarely been in that house, that the house didn’t matter. It could have been a pile of dust on the dark side of the moon, but that tidiness, that delicate thoughtfulness, the faint perfume that permeated it, made it home.

After the funeral, the house died too, and we put it to rest. We emptied it of the carefully folded linen, the mementos, photos, her paintings, the furniture, all that she had thought would be useful or would please us to have, and we laid the stones to rest. My parents’ nest was empty. We have it all now, the twigs and pebbles lovingly gathered, in our hearts.

 

Night of broken glass

 

On this night of broken glass,

of fragile safety

held by a too-slender thread,

the yellow sun slips over the edge

into the dark half of the year,

leaves behind scattered shards

of steel-sharp, star-sharp light

in water buckets

and ice crisp in the furrowed fields.

On this night of broken,

iron-hook crosses,

moon floats above the edge

of the dark line between now and when

the bone-pale shoots will curl

their fingers through the cold earth,

like the dead resuscitated.

Cat star

Remembering, on this day one year ago, two lost boys.

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Grey day dawning

and in the sky

a starman rose,

a cat star leapt,

over the double, over-arching rainbow,

with inhuman grace,

dropping away like morning dew,

the miasma of drugs and sleep,

embracing the wild empty blackness,

the star-embroidered blackness,

the silent, velvet-padded blackness

of infinity.

Silence is all

Photo ©John Haslam

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Silence is all that greets this blue morning,

No words can soften the chill in the air,

The dead have no voices, their tears are all dry.

 

Quiet these fields, the last of the roses,

Flowering in earth once harrowed with hell,

Silence is all that greets the blue morning.

 

A scattering of crosses, white wood, grey stone,

The whisper of voices from so long ago,

No words can soften the chill in the air.

 

Bells toll the seconds, last lives extinguished,

The blood in the fields now flowering red,

The dead have no voices, their tears are all dry.

On this day

I haven’t done this before, and it’s still hard, but this is a few words in remembrance of this day fourteen years ago when my mother died.

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This day was dark

That saw me fly to my mother’s side,

To hold a hand that did not know mine.

So quick her bird flew,

So hard to find the thoughts among the tears.

She had already gone,

Retreated to the place of half-being,

One foot in the doorway,

One hand reaching out to those beyond.

In her steady heartbeat

I heard the whispered words,

All the words left unsaid,

That would never now be spoken.

Tears could not open those lips,

Loosen that garrulous tongue.

The clock ticked but time had fled.

Were you there, Dad, to take her hand

And lead her through to the other side?

Did you give her that lop-sided smile and ask,

‘What kept you?’

I like to think you were,

She could never find her way without you,

Ever.

Poetry challenge #5 Nonet: the entries

The challenge running through last week was on the theme of war and remembrance. Who could have known that there would have been another layer of horror to add to the unbearably monstrous pile we’ve already accumulated in our role as most intelligent, civilized and advanced species on the planet?

There was, as usual, a wealth of poetry inspired by this most emotive theme. Here are the nonets.

First was Ben Naga—couldn’t agree more.

THE PATH TO PEACE

No more rage, no more hate, no more war
No more rage, no more hate, no more
No more rage, no more hate, no
No more rage, no more hate
No more rage, no more
No more rage, no
No more rage
No more
No

~~~~~~~

https://bennaga.wordpress.com/2015/11/11/the-path-to-peace/

 

Next, Peter Bouchier’s poem,

Armistice

fight
your way
towards peace
so that you may
bloom like a poppy
the battlefield is wide
there is room for all of us
carrying our ammunition
we will move in the line of fire

the fields will colour a shade of red
once we have overcome the foe
fighting deep within ourselves
peace will only prevail
when our blooming hearts
beat like war drums
as we march
towards
love.

The link to his blog with the poem’s illustration is here:

Ken’s poem: I particularly like the way the first and last words rhyme.

War No More

Gaze into the distance,imagine
as they fade on the horizon
illusory images
of a place in time when
poppies need not grow
with thoughts of war
lost in a
distant
haze

https://rivrvlogr.wordpress.com/2015/11/11/war-no-more/

This one: Veterans’ Day is from Greg who was inspired to join in for the first time. Welcome, Greg 🙂

Elusive trope. Sharp, aggressive imagery for a heartless subject.

Remembrance

fallen by the muck of saving face
signatures written in bad faith
the brambles of politics
the sharpest point of greed
the strange bed fellows
their conspiring
and plotting
petty
games

http://elusivetrope.com/2015/11/11/remembrance/

 

Kris the Bard tells a whole awful story in this double nonet.

In the bleak quagmire of no-man’s land,
My best friend, wounded and trapped,
Buried to his chest in mud.
He begged for our help.
We had our orders,
We passed by
And left him
Living
Still.

Dawn,
Weary,
Those still left
Alive after
Charging hostile lines,
Pointless, bloody slaughter,
Trudging home found him again,
Buried to his neck now, in fear
He begged again; my last bullet.

In a similar style, from Kerfe and Nina (don’t know if this was a collaboration). Visit their blog for more war-inspired poems

He was doomed to watch his friends die.
Life seemed increasingly bitter.
He never mentioned the war
after the funeral.
But he was alive.
He did not care
to try to.
Gave up.
Scared.

Eyes
echoed
things they did.
Directionless,
but what choice was there?
It becomes part of you.
He never mentioned the war.
Life seemed increasingly bitter.
Only regrets and flashbacks remained.

 

Merril Smith ends on a hopeful note. Thanks for that, Merril 🙂

On Flanders Fields the poppies grow now
Hiding the bones of the fallen.
Red blooms instead of red blood
But do the ghosts still walk
Crying and in pain?
Peace has not come
To take root.
But plants
Hope.

Kat Myrman sent in this very touching double nonet.

Tomb of the unknown

 

Janice end this trio of poems with a nonet written after the Paris outrage.

Why remember?

Why remember on remembrance day?
Let’s remember to reflect on
war, our tragic addiction
to deadly weapon fire,
and bold young heroes’
sacrifices,
squandered on
tainted
peace.

Peace

Resounding to the heavens, joyous
dove songs mark terror’s overthrow
bombs and guns are obsolete
dictators have no sway
confused violence
has stepped aside
for reason
love and
peace.

Terror

What glass shards pierced their murderous hearts?
What dark horrors tangled their minds?
Who schemes murder in God’s name?
Resisting fear’s poison,
I grasp for answers,
How to oppose
madness with
peaceful
heart.

https://ontheland.wordpress.com/2015/11/14/war-and-terror-jane-dougherty-poetry-challenge-5/

This is Geoff’s contribution based on memories of his father and grandfather. I like the image of the wasp. ‘Oh Death, where is thy sting’ etc.

1939

‘No response received; we are at war.’
The wasp is drunk on rotting fruit
Spins slowly. Disturbed it jabs
Its sting, thoughtless who’s hurt.
It’s instinct. It knows
No better. We do.
Yet still we
Let them
Rot.

Some lovely lines in these poems. Thanks to all of you for joining in. Tomorrow’s theme is going to be another new one.

 

Red, red the poppies

A last offering for Armistice Day.
©Martial Gaillard-Grenadier

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Red, red the poppies blow,
In the fields where the headstones grow,
White and pure as fallen snow,
That mark the place where the dead men go.
And have we learned from all these dead,
The stolen youth, the family head,
The terror blind, the slaughter red,
The hearts abroken, the life’s blood bled?
When I can see a poppy field,
And the deep, rich earth in spring revealed,
Where men have only a plough to wield,
I’ll know the broken world is healed.

Poetry challenge #5: Nonet

Something different this week. Well, it was to me. A nonet is a nine line poem with a syllable pattern of: 9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1. Simple. If you like, you can call your poem a stanza and add as many of them as you like. For symmetry, I added a second stanza going backwards, working up to nine syllables.

As it’s the 11th of November today, an appropriate theme would be war in any of its forms, taken from any angle.

1280px-Szinyei_Merse,_Pál_-_Meadow_with_Poppies_-_Google_Art_Project

 

Along the brow of the hill, poppies,

Wind ripples, red petals blowing.

Voices whisper messages:

Seek no heroism,

No glory in death,

Celebrate life,

Selflessly

Sharing

Love.

 

Dead

Listen

To the wind.

Petals scatter,

Roots stir the deep earth,

White graves empty of bones,

Full of grief and wasted lives.

Yearn not for pomp and circumstance,

Nothing’s so sweet as the blackbird’s song.