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27th-May-2019 01:00 am - Elisha Porat, 'The Young Students'
The Young Students
"The young dead soldiers do not speak.
Nevertheless, they are heard in the still houses:
who has not heard them?
They have a silence that speaks for them
at night when the clock counts."

-- Archibald MacLeish.
On the morning of Memorial Day I walk into the class.
"The young dead soldiers do not speak.
Nevertheless, they are heard . . . "
I read to my young students;
My voice echoes in the silent space of the class.
Their eyes are fastened to my lips,
Fear beats upon my face:

I'm the one who knows,
I'm the one who remembers;
I bite my lip, and begin to cry.

Abruptly I flee from the classroom,
As the eyes of my young students
Drill into the silent space in my brain.
Speak to me, dear children,
How I truly need to hear
Your voices now.

by Elisha Porat
Translated from the Hebrew by the author and Ward Kelley
The Young Dead Soldiers Do Not Speak

The young dead soldiers do not speak.
Nevertheless, they are heard in the still houses:
who has not heard them?
They have a silence that speaks for them at night
and when the clock counts.
They say: We were young. We have died.
Remember us.
They say: We have done what we could
but until it is finished it is not done.
They say: We have given our lives but until it is finished
no one can know what our lives gave.
They say: Our deaths are not ours: they are yours,
they will mean what you make them.
They say: Whether our lives and our deaths were for
peace and a new hope or for nothing we cannot say,
it is you who must say this.
We leave you our deaths. Give them their meaning.
We were young, they say. We have died; remember us.

by Archibald MacLeish
25th-May-2019 01:00 am - Brian Cowan, 'The Wall'
The Wall
(a poem about the Vietnam War Memorial Wall)

The wall brings us together. The wall keeps us apart,
A granite demarcation of our lives and of our hearts.
It rises from the depths of dust and to the dust returns
A focus of reflection for those who come to yearn.

At this wall of pained remembrance, we together stand alone
Reflecting on the names of those etched deep within the stone
Reflecting on what we've become from what we left behind,
Memories etched in flesh and stone, forever intertwined.

Names set deep in granite are forever meant to last
Reflections change and fade away in journeys to the past,
Fleeting life and ageless death join at this sombre pall.
And once more we are brothers as we gather at the wall.

By Brian Cowan
Note To An Unknown Soldier

I don't know you, I never met you
For laughs I'll call you Sam
You were the son of Mrs. Someone
I hope she understands

Sam you were all that you had
Are you happy or sad?
I never knew you
But I'm told you're the best that we had

Were you so tall? Did you play basketball?
Was there a sweetheart at home?
Did you write her letters did it make you better
Face the great unknown?

Sam did you feel alone?
You were so far from home
I never knew you
But I know you're the best man I know

Could you tell it was time
See it coming in the back of your mind?
When it was over, was it over?
Sam I'm glad you're on my side

I don't know you, I never met you
Can I call you Sam?
Did you have a son, a daughter with a little one?
I might go and thank

Sam you're the best that we had
You make me happy and sad
If you were here I'd buy the beers
I'd shake your hand and say good man

And though the sun would shine about the same
It's a better world because you came
Sincerely yours, my kids will know your name

By John Ondrasik

23rd-May-2019 01:00 am - Carol Ann Duffy, 'Last Post'
Last Post

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If poetry could tell it backwards, true, begin
that moment shrapnel scythed you to the stinking mud ...
but you get up, amazed, watch bled bad blood
run upwards from the slime into its wounds;
see lines and lines of British boys rewind
back to their trenches, kiss the photographs from home -
mothers, sweethearts, sisters, younger brothers
not entering the story now
to die and die and die.
Dulce - No - Decorum - No - Pro patria mori.
You walk away.
You walk away; drop your gun (fixed bayonet)
like all your mates do too -
Harry, Tommy, Wilfred, Edward, Bert -
and light a cigarette.
There's coffee in the square,
warm French bread
and all those thousands dead
are shaking dried mud from their hair
and queuing up for home. Freshly alive,
a lad plays Tipperary to the crowd, released
from History; the glistening, healthy horses fit for heroes, kings.
You lean against a wall,
your several million lives still possible
and crammed with love, work, children, talent, English beer, good food.
You see the poet tuck away his pocket-book and smile.
If poetry could truly tell it backwards,
then it would.

By Carol Ann Duffy

[Poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy wrote Last Post to mark the deaths of Henry Allingham and Harry Patch, the two longest surviving soldiers from the 1914-18 First World War. The first two lines are from the poem Dulce Et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen.]

50,000 Names Carved In The Wall

There are teddy bears and high school rings
And old photographs that mamas bring
That daddies with their young boys, playin' ball

There's combat boots that he used to wear
When he was sent over there
There's 50,000 names carved in the wall

There's cigarettes and there's cans of beer
And notes that say, I miss you dear
And children, who don't say anything at all

There's purple hearts and packs of gum
Fatherless daughters and fatherless sons
And there's 50,000 names carved in the wall

They come from all across this land
In pickup trucks and mini vans
Searching for a boy from long ago

They scan the wall and find his name
The teardrops fall like pouring rain
And silently they leave a gift and go

There's stars of David and rosary beads
And crucifixion figurines
And flowers of all colors large and small

There's a boy scout badge and a merit pin
Little American flags waving in the wind
And there's 50,000 names carved in the wall
There's 50,000 names carved in the wall

By George Jones

21st-May-2019 01:00 am - Siegfried Sassoon, 'France'

She triumphs, in the vivid green
Where sun and quivering foliage meet;
And in each soldier’s heart serene;
When death stood near them they have seen
The radiant forests where her feet
Move on a breeze of silver sheen.

And they are fortunate, who fight
For gleaming landscapes swept and shafted
And crowned by cloud pavilions white;
Hearing such harmonies as might
Only from Heaven be downward wafted—
Voices of victory and delight.

By Siegfried Sassoon
20th-May-2019 01:00 am - Heather Dale, 'The Carter's War Song'
The Carter's War Song

Hey hey, Laddie O
We'll climb that hill
And we'll fight the foe

The muscled might of Ealdormere
Is climbing up the hill
with our goods sent here

Heed well the northern red
When you see it on the field
With the eastern dead

What means your belt and rowel
When your face is turned to white
With the north realm's howl

The army rolls towards the field
In the tides of the battle
We will not yield

Hail to the princess wise and fair
The finest inspiration
Of Ealdormere

Snow rain or sun beat down
We're fighting for the pride
Of our sovereign crown

Fie, what their king bestows
They'll be getting their rewards
From our swords and bows

Carting's a good career
When you're carting off
The foes of Ealdormere

Salute to the one you hold most dear
And do honor to the prince
Of Ealdormere

Lift up your swords and sing
For the glories of the war
This day will bring

Hail to the friends from far and near
The allies of the wolves
Of Ealdormere

Heave ho with all your might
The crown on the mountain
Is in sight

Raise up your voice and cheer
For the patriots who sweat
For Ealdormere

Hey hey, Laddie O
We'll climb that hill
And we'll fight the foe

Hey hey, Laddie O
We'll climb that hill
And we'll fight the foe

By Heather Dale

19th-May-2019 01:00 am - Edwin Muir, 'Reading in Wartime'
Reading in Wartime

Boswell by my bed,
Tolstoy on my table:
Though the world has bled
For four and a half years,
And wives' and mothers' tears
Collected would be able
To water a little field
Untouched by anger and blood,
A penitential yield
somewhere in the world;
Though in each latitude
Armies like forests fall,
The iniquitous and the good
Head over heels hurled,
And confusion over all:
Boswell's turbulent friend
And his deafening verbal strife,
Ivan Ilych's death
Tell me more about life,
The meaning and the end
Of our familiar breath,
Both being personal,
Than all the carnage can,
Retrieve the shape of man,
Lost and anonymous,
Tell me wherever I look
That not one soul can die
Of this or any clan
Who is not one of us
And has a personal tie
Perhaps to someone now
Searching an ancient book,
Folk-tale or country song
In many and many a tongue,
To find the original face,
The individual soul,
The eye, the lip, the brow
For ever gone from their place,
And gather an image whole.

by Edwin Muir
18th-May-2019 12:00 am - Douglas Dunn, 'After The War'
After the War

The soldiers came, brewed tea in Snoddy's field
Beside the wood from where we watched them pee
In Snoddy's stagnant pond, small boys hidden
In pines and firs. The soldiers stood or sat
Ten minutes in the field, some officers apart
With the select problems of a map. Before,
Soldiers were imagined, we were them, gunfire
In our mouths, most cunning local skirmishers.
Their sudden arrival silenced us. I lay down
On the grass and saw the blue shards of an egg
We'd broken. Its warm yolk on the green grass,
And pine cones like little hand grenades.
One burst from an imaginary Browning,
A grenade well-thrown by a child's arm,
And all these faces like our fathers' faces
Would fall back bleeding, trucks would burst in flames,
A blood-stained map would float on Snoddy's pond.
Our ambush made the soldiers laugh, and some
Made booming noises from behind real rifles
As we ran among them begging for badges,
Our plimsolls on the fallen May-blossom
Like boots on the faces of dead children.
But one of us had left. I saw him go
Out through the gate, I heard him on the road
Running to his mother's house. They lived alone,
Behind a hedge round an untended garden
Filled with broken toys, abrasive loss;
A swing that creaked, a rusted bicycle.
He went inside just as the convoy passed.

by Douglas Dunn
Innocents of War

From time immemorial
green fields and valleys
have been filled
with the innocents
of war

red blood
of young men
slain in battle
soaks the fields
and inspires
the next generation
to line up in ranks
and die
dusty deaths
in foreign lands

waste scores
of innocents
in sunny meadows

farmers later graze
their herds
in nearby fields

by Michael Pruchnicki
16th-May-2019 01:00 am - Leon Adams, 'Threnody of the Nations'
Threnody of the Nations

We have hated and fought,
We have murdered and fled,
But the peace that we sought
Is alone with the dead.

We have offered ourselves
On the altar of greed;
We have poisoned our sons
With our venomous creed.

We have bombed and destroyed;
We have raped and diseased,
Till the earth has grown dark
With our war-obsequies.

We have sung our wild song
In the ghouls' jubilee,
And, O Love, once again
We have crucified Thee.

By Leon Adams
Lennoxville, Quebec, May 16, 1940
Father Iraq, Mother Palestine

Mortar attacks a bus in Baghdad, 15 die
Civil war strife mirrors the war
America has waged on Iraqi life
More than two years ago.

How can this happen
How can this be
That I will never see
The land of my great grandfather?

I strive, I feel too much zeal
to help heal the schisms

splitting this poor country
and that of Palestine.

Hamas' request that they vacate the west
and return East Jerusalem
on which they settled, built checkpoint and a wall
In 1949

How can this happen
How can this be
That I will never see
The Land of my dear grandmother?

I cry, I whine, abstaining
From bodily pleasures
emptying myself
of the life deprived Iraq.

By Farrah Sarafa
14th-May-2019 01:00 am - Wilfrid Gibson, 'A Lament'
A Lament

We who are left, how shall we look again
Happily on the sun or feel the rain,
Without remembering how they who went
Ungrudgingly, and spent
Their all for us, loved too the sun and rain?

A bird among the rain-wet lilac sings -
But we, how shall we turn to little things,
And listen to the birds and winds and streams
Made holy by their dreams,
Nor feel the heart-break in the heart of things?

by Wilfrid Gibson
13th-May-2019 01:00 am - David Rovics, 'Send Them Back'
Send Them Back

It's 1939 and the boats are coming
But we can't have them here, that much at least is clear
Our economy is poor, we can't just open up the door
We've got problems of our own, they should just leave us alone
And they're a tribalistic race, they keep a separate space
They don't really integrate, they'll be a burden on the state
Watch before it is too late

It's 1939 and the boats are coming
But if we let them land and acquiesce to their demands
We'll soon be overrun, our Christian country will be done
They should just take the tram closer by to Amsterdam
Keep their problems in the region, this invading legion
Enemies within our ranks with names like Rosenberg and Frank
Watch that water that you drank

It's 1939 and the boats are coming
But they must stay away, in the newspapers they say
They don't believe in Christ the lord and they're jumping overboard
Crossing borders in a swarm, they'll never be reformed
It's a Trojan Horse attack and we've got to send them back
There may be Nazis in the hall, answering Hitler's call
These Jews are Germans after all

It's 1939 and the boats are coming

By David Rovics

937 Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany board the St. Louis, May 13, 1939

12th-May-2019 01:00 am - May Herschel-Clarke, 'In Mother'
In Mother

In that still quietness where is space for thought,
Where parting, loss and bloodshed shall not be,
And men may rest themselves and dream of nought:
That in some place a mystic mile away
One whom you loved has drained the bitter cup
Till there is nought to drink; has faced the day
Once more, and now, has raised the standard up.

And think, my son, with eyes grown clear and dry
She lives as though for ever in your sight,
Loving the things you loved, with heart aglow
For country, honour, truth, traditions high,
—Proud that you paid their price. (And if some night
Her heart should break—well, lad, you will not know.)

by May Herschel-Clarke
The French and the Spanish Guerillas

Hunger, and sultry heat, and nipping blast
From bleak hill-top, and length of march by night
Through heavy swamp, or over snow-clad height--
These hardships ill-sustained, these dangers past,
The roving Spanish Bands are reached at last,
Charged, and dispersed like foam: but as a flight
Of scattered quails by signs do reunite,
So these,--and, heard of once again, are chased
With combinations of long-practised art
And newly-kindled hope; but they are fled--
Gone are they, viewless as the buried dead:
Where now?--Their sword is at the Foeman's heart;
And thus from year to year his walk they thwart,
And hang like dreams around his guilty bed.

by William Wordsworth

The Peninsular War, 1807-14
He Went For A Soldier

He marched away with a blithe young score of him
With the first volunteers,
Clear-eyed and clean and sound to the core of him,
Blushing under the cheers.
They were fine, new flags that swung a flying there,
Oh, the pretty girls he glimpsed a-crying there,
Pelting him with pinks and with roses —
Billy, the Soldier Boy!

Soon he is one with the blinding smoke of it —
Volley and curse and groan:
Then he has done with the knightly joke of it —
It’s rending flesh and bone.
There are pain-crazed animals a-shrieking there
And a warm blood stench that is a-reeking there;
He fights like a rat in a corner —
Billy the Soldier Boy!

There he lies now, like a ghoulish score of him,
Left on the field for dead:
The ground all around is smeared with the gore of him
Even the leaves are red.
The Thing that was Billy lies a-dying there,
Writhing and a-twisting and a-crying there:
A sickening sun grins down on him —
Billy, the Soldier Boy!

Still not quite clear in the poor, wrung heart of him
What was the fuss about,
See where he lies – or a ghastly part of him –
While life is oozing out:
There are loathsome things he sees a-crawling there;
There are hoarse-voiced crows he hears a-calling there,
Eager for the foul feast spread for them –
Billy, the Soldier Boy!

How much longer, O Lord, shall we bear it all?
How many more red years?
Story it and glory it and share it all,
In seas of blood and tears?
They are braggart attitudes we’ve worn so long;
They are tinsel platitudes we’ve sworn so long –
We who have turned the Devil’s Grindstone,
Borne with the hell called War!

by Ruth Comfort Mitchell
9th-May-2019 02:00 am - Robert Service, 'No More Music'
No More Music

The porch was blazoned with geranium bloom;
Myrtle and jasmine meadows lit the lea;
With rose and violet the vale's perfume
Languished to where the hyacinthine sea
Dreamed tenderly . . . "And I must go," said he.

He spoke in that dim, ghostly voice of his:
"I was a singer; then the War . . . and GAS."
(I had to lean to him, no word to miss.)
"We bought this little café nigh to Grasse;
With sun and flowers my last few days will pass.

"And music too. I have my mandolin:
Say! Maybe you can strum on your guitar . . .
Come on - we two will make melodious din,
While Madame sings to us behind the bar:
You'll see how sweet Italian folk-songs are."

So he would play and I would thrum the while;
I used to go there every lovely day;
His wife would listen with a sunny smile,
And when I left: "Please come again," she'd say.
"He seems quite sad when you have gone away."

Alas! I had to leave without good-bye,
And lived in sooty cities for a year.
Oh, how my heart ached for that happy sky!
Then, then one day my café I drew near -
God! it was strange how I was gripped with fear.

So still it was; I saw no mandolin,
No gay guitar with ribbons blue and red;
Then all in black, stone-faced the wife came in . . .
I did not ask; I looked, she shook her head:
"La musique est fini," was all she said.

By Robert Service
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