At dVerse Sarah is hosting Poetics with an invitation to share a poem that has called to us, affected us in some way, positively or otherwise, and to write a poem in response. dVerse Poets – Poetics – A Conversation
I have chosen Wilfred Owen’s poem ‘Anthem For Doomed Youth’ and riffed on that a little. I despise war and I see it as a failure of humanity to sit down together. Wilfred Owen fought in the British army in WW1 and died at the age of 25 in 1918 one week before war’s end. For a detailed biography see The Wilfred Owen Association
Anthem For Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen
What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
- only monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, -
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.
“Men make war to get attention. All killing is an expression of self-hate.” Alice Walker
Merril at dVerse has invited us to consider writing a poem about secrets.
Photo: Courier Mail: October 2019, 50 Climate Activists arrested in Melbourne.
“If you tremble with indignation at every injustice, then you are a comrade of mine.” Che Guevara
The Secret Fantasy
To take a life
even for a cause,
how does one do that with any ease
that it never haunts,
eternally wounding the self,
twisting bowel and heart in
feverish spasms of regret,
causing clever mind plays
of robust justification,
all those greats who advocated
against that dark horror
even baring their own chests to
the chance of bullets
and my life has been persuaded
of that very path, and yet,
there are those days of longing
to come out of Kinshasa,
to leave the mountains of Bolivia,
to wear the beret once again
and to strike at the heart of the
corpulent monster strangling the world.
Photo: Getty Images. Princess Dianna sitting with amputees, victims of landmines, Angola, 1997. Dianna as many will remember ignited opposition to the use of landmines which resulted in the Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty and drew attention to the work of the Halo Trust whose work is clearing mines and advocacy against mines and weapons of war. She had that inner beauty, photos of her shaking hands with lepers, sitting with HIV sufferers, visiting homeless shelters and os on. I’m not a monarchist, but her work was of a different order.
“I’d read the statistics that Angola has the highest percentage of amputees anywhere in the world … that one person in every 333 had lost a limb, most of them through land mine explosions. But that hadn’t prepared me for the reality.” Dianna Spencer
So beautiful, those legs, her …
And such a mind, but O her heart,
her beauty drew the cameras,
merely a stage for the inner beauty
of her compassion for the world.
“A shocking crime was committed on the unscrupulous initiative of few individuals, with the blessing of more, and amid the passive acquiescence of all.” Tacitus
The husk of man,
for it is a man rather than a woman,
is forever drained and dry,
burnt in the blinking of an eye
across the fields of loss and grief,
where the butcher’s hand is never stayed,
and the slice is always close to the bone
with the relentless search for
the cure of fear, which, as always
readily falls to cycles of war,
now favoured by the killing of a man
who was food as friend,
and sent to to the heavenly realm
of the great cloud of witnesses
who pray over our esteemed
and utter madness for blood to be
wasted on the unforgiving rocks of dogma.
“Chess can be described as the movement of pieces eating one another.” Marcel Duchamp
Is Nothing Learned?
Knight takes bishop,
queen takes knight,
pawn takes pawn and
blocks the rook,
on and on
and so it goes,
tit for tat
soon everything falls,
is nothing learned,
is no one heard?
It’s not the winning
or a surrender,
and I hope,
it is letting all things be.
Photo: Auschwitz 1, the former Polish army barracks which the SS commandeered as a prison for Polish army officers, Poles, Jews, subversives, and others. This is a substantial complex of brick multi-story blocks, unlike Auschwitz 2, which was mostly wooden blocks. I found the place sombre and still, a place of confronting horror. This is the place where the Catholic priest and subversive Maximilian Kolbe exchanged places with a young Jewish man because he was a husband and father and had a future to live. The commandant agreed to the exchange. Kolbe was starved to death, although he was given a mercy injection after three weeks.
“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” Elie Wiesel
Life Became Him
Quietly he ventured an offer to
the commandant lusting for reprisal,
one young father not ready for some version of heaven,
and persuaded, the commandant exchanges the two,
the priest is starved in the doorway of eternity.
“I dream of giving birth to a child asks, ‘Mother, what was war?'” Eve Merriam
How simple to hold,
extend a branch towards hope,
how easy to cut the tree down
and offer striped pyjamas
and barbed wire,
to be disappeared,
that none flourish.
“War does not determine who is right – but only who is left.” Bertrand Russell
Never have the vainglories of death
been so exposed as in the spectre of war
where truth is so relentlessly sucked dry
by the ghouls of righteous capital,
so cheaply purchased by the blood of innocents,
for those who would never near the fight
as to get their morals dirty
nor their boots,
they are the ones who would kill their own
for the sake of a few inches of sand
and forty pieces of silver.