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  #1  
Unread 04-10-2022, 05:33 PM
Michael Cantor Michael Cantor is online now
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Default The Horrors of War

We've had several threads on poems by others dealing with the horrors of war. I suspect many of us have written our own. Here are a few to start it off.

The Journalist

The when came first, and was no problem since
clocks hung on the market wall had stopped
precisely at the time he had to know,
and there were watches too, all smashed it seemed,
and parts of straps, and down the blackened street
a grand old tower timepiece still retained
an hour hand; and what was good was that
they all agreed: there was no fog or mystery.

Where was simple also, since the maps
and GPS coordinates all showed this village
or that town, and most had names, or he could
find someone to tell him this is The-Street-
of-Music-Stores-That-Used-To-Be
or here is
The Place-of-Orange-Trees-That-Burned-All-Night
.
He would write it down slowly, in his way,
and soon began to find the names himself.

He often stumbled, though, at what, for what
was not so clear. Some kind of IED,
they’d say, perhaps behind a truck or car.
Men came with masks and guns and called out names.
The belt is wrapped around a piece of corpse.
A woman, all in black, in line for food.

He learned more acronyms, and all the vast
new nuances that came with improvised.

And next was who, and who turned out to be
impossible. The bloodstains on stone walls
were who, and headless bodies found in lakes,
and gunners torched inside their vehicles,
and chunks of flesh and fat; and still the questions
rang of who was this and who did that,
and who was shot or bombed beyond all moral
sense, and who was God to suffer this?

And when he came to why he took a walk
at noon, behind a berm of blasted earth,
and stripped off forty pounds of Kevlar vest
and shirtless, spinning, spinning in the sun,
leaned against a rock, and puked, and wept;
but still the sun remained, and still he went
on going out each day to sanctify
the old, old cry: who, what, when, where, why?



Toy Soldiers

The little tin men in their little tin hats
bang their loud little drums for the blood they won't shed;
and the ones who don’t fight lead the rat-a-tat-tats
when the little tin men in their little tin hats
fill the air with their calls like a clatter of cats —
until nothing is left but the rats and the dead,
and the little tin men with their little tin hats,
and their loud little drums, and the blood that's been shed.
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  #2  
Unread 04-10-2022, 09:14 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Michael,

I think I prefer your second poem here, which I like a fair bit. It seems to me easier to write a short war poem than a long one, pace Homer. Here is I think my only war poem, posted here some months ago.

Cheers,
John


Border


A tree will move but will not walk away.
It speaks and maybe the wind hears it. I
have seen a tree turn in the wind, about
the time of day the sun is up and all
you see is trees. This is a place I might
well shed a tear. Yes, I am on the level.

There’s trouble at the border. It’s a thing
the trees don’t really care about. Along
that dotted line, men are exchanging shots.
Some are on horseback, some in a mass grave.
They call out in the cool air and the notes
they make this morning seem as if alive.

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Unread 04-11-2022, 01:50 PM
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RCL RCL is offline
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Three contributions (posted earlier) to the anti-war discussion.

Seeds of War

Their seeds ripped off by comrade Stalin
a century ago now fall on
the Ukrainians' soil—their essence
steel. We know
that's not to feed them:
it’s to starve, to kill, to steal their freedom.
Let Putin's orcs reap what they sow.

Note: Stalin’s adopted surname means steel. Ukrainians call the invaders orcs, after brutal humanoid monsters created by Tolkien.


Myrmidons

After and with Thoreau

Ants battled on my Walden woodpile,
Small reds against much larger blacks.
The wood was strewn with dying and dead:
Imperialist blacks and republican reds.

A red clamped on a black ant’s chest
Was shaken till a back leg broke.
I watched another red assault
The black ant’s back and gnaw his neck—

An Achilles avenging his Patroclus?
The black destroyed all the reds’ limbs,
Lopped off their heads and left with them.
Who won this internecine bellum?

Most warrior Myrmidons soon dead,
Ant squads claimed corpses, black and red.


Note: This is meant to be a microcosm of Thoreau’s discussion in Walden, Chapter 12: “Brute Neighbors.”

First appeared in New Verse News; later in Autumn Sky Poetry Daily


The Word War

Remembering Wilfred Owen’s
Dulce Et Decorum Est

He wrote in verse about this word
on a blank page as pale as death.
Though silent, it is mindfully heard.
He wrote in verse a word of the absurd
sweet lie: pro patria mori earns a reward
of decorous honors for one’s last breath.
He wrote in verse about this word
on a pale page—on repetitive death.

First appeared in New Verse News
__________________
Ralph
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Unread 04-11-2022, 03:23 PM
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Ann Drysdale Ann Drysdale is offline
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The Old Lie

What would Owen have written, had he lived?
It seems presumptuous to speculate.
Had he returned home whole to those he loved
would he have foundered, inarticulate
without the special stimulus of war?
Would he have flown a Spitfire next time round
or turned Dunkerque into "A Beach Too Far",
scabbing it over neatly, like a wound?
And what would he have made of "Shock and Awe" -
the great cacophony of graceless might
that mocked the things we said we did it for?
Another day ends in another night.
Why should I try to find his voice again?
They wouldn't listen now. They didn't then.


This, of course, was Iraq. I was a member of a Quaker group called Welsh Writers Against the War. We wrote, we marched and we demonstrated, and we achieved sod all.
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Unread 04-11-2022, 09:06 PM
Martin Elster Martin Elster is offline
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Thunder

Great casks hung in the atmosphere—
***too near!—
so black, they looked like enmity
***to me,
then burst, and tore my ears asunder,
***their thunder
like rocks that rammed the earth and stunned her.
Across the sea, as far from sight
as Neptune, battlefields ignite—
too near to me, their thunder!


Battle

We heard the bugle’s strident warison
and charged the enemy. Across the mire
the horses hurtled. Caught in musket fire,
a flock of starlings winged away. Who won?
We? The enemy? The birds? Outrun
our fate? Absurd! No one could re-inspire,
could ever prevail upon me to attire
myself in fighting coats. The Fates have spun
their web. My friends are gone. We had a choice:
turn tail or mount our ponies and then rise
in spirit like fierce falcons. The clarion’s voice,
our quickened pulse, sharp gun smoke in the air,
we galloped as they galloped. None would spare
the other, ant-like, yet far more unwise.

(The above is a bouts-rimés.)
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Unread 04-12-2022, 10:33 PM
John Riley John Riley is online now
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Still working on this one. The title is a placeholder.

Slaughter

What you see are the remains:
the woodland, the smoke, the retreating flames.
Somewhere, perhaps, in a far-away country
the sky is bluer and roses cling to a stone wall,
palm trees lull a mild wind.
Here there is nothing.
Here there is nothing but snow on the branches of the spruce.
Here there is nothing to kiss with warm lips.
Here lips grow cold with time.
You claim, my child, your heart is brave,
and living without hope is worse than death.
What do you expect of death?
Should we love instead these long sick hours of life,
these narrow years of yearning,
the brief blooming of a desert rise?
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Unread 04-19-2022, 07:43 PM
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Gail White Gail White is offline
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Default Horrors of war

I don't have a horrors poem of my own, but my favorite is Alec Waugh's "Cannon Fodder", which I highly recommend. It's a little long to copy, but these are the last 3 verses, as he addresses the folks back home who "have not seen what death has made of him."

You have not seen the proud limbs mangled and broken,
The face of the lover sightless, raw and red.
You have not seen the flock of vermin swarming
Over the newly dead.

Slowly he'll rot in the place where no man dare go.
Silently over the night the stench of his carcase will flow.
Proudly the worms will be banqueting.
This you can never know.

He will live in your dreams forever as last you saw him,
Proud-eyed and clean, a man whom shame never knew.
Laughing, erect, with the strength of the wind in his manhood.
O broken-hearted mother, I envy you.
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Unread 04-19-2022, 09:01 PM
Martin Elster Martin Elster is offline
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On a Corner of a Pixel

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner. —Carl Sagan

I’ve a hunch the president (ex-prime minister),
whom the planet now thinks is at least as sinister
as The Joker, had never read “A Pale
Blue Dot” If he had, he couldn’t fail
to see himself in Sagan’s text,
his bureaucratic muscles flexed,
swooping raptorially on
his neighbor. What’s new? (Carl would yawn.)
Aiming to flatten, bomb, destroy,
cause havoc gives him serious joy:
the momentary master of
a fraction of a dot.
What love
he has for his fellows across the border!—
soon to zap them in short order.
Both young and old will gather, fight
and trounce the tyrant, as the light
of a trillion suns bombards the night.
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Unread 04-20-2022, 11:12 AM
Michael Cantor Michael Cantor is online now
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August, 1965

The smallest and youngest came first
We could hear them before we could see them
A kilometer down from the grandstand
Out of sight past a rise in the road

We could hear them before we could see them
A kingdom of crickets was chirping
Out of sight past a rise in the road
The children were marching and chanting

A kingdom of crickets was chirping
We still could not quite understand them
The children were marching and chanting
We waited, like crows on a fence

We still could not quite understand them
The twentieth year since the sun burst
We waited, like crows on a fence
The marchers now almost upon us

The twentieth year since the sun burst
They have emptied the country of children
The marchers now almost upon us
Holding pennants and banners and chanting

They have emptied the country of children
Fifty thousand here marching this morning
Holding pennants and banners and chanting
“No more Hiroshima, no more…”

Fifty thousand here marching this morning
Through twisted and savaged gray concrete
“No more Hiroshima, no more…”
“No more Nagasaki, no more…”


Through twisted and savaged gray concrete
A kilometer down from the grandstand
“No more Nagasaki, no more…”
The smallest and youngest came first.


From Furusato. By pure coincidence I was in Hiroshima on the twentieth anniversary, and this is what I experienced.

Last edited by Michael Cantor; 04-20-2022 at 11:15 AM.
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Unread 04-20-2022, 11:33 AM
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Allen Tice Allen Tice is offline
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Fully understood.
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