November 12th, 2010


A poem about veterans for my father and my grandfather

The war was over. And the men came back.
Some rode in ox-carts, those too sick to walk.
Some could not see and others could not talk.
They all missed something, aching at the lack

of friends who died beside them in the line
took the spear meant for them, parried a blow
but while the shield was up, were stabbed below
the navel, and spilled guts. Thought they were fine

until the shock wore off, gurgled and died.
And soldiers live with memories like those
and cope far better than you might suppose
but always feel the absence at their side

and drink, or gamble, cut themselves with knives
or whimper late at night heard by their wives

(no subject)


Even their priests misunderstood the gods
Thinking they cared how worshippers might pray
or that they'd help the dead go forth by day
into the western lands. What are the odds

that they'd have time to care, caught in their dance
of incest, murder, rebirth, love and rape,
whether some human sinner might escape
eternal punishment? You take your chance

and maybe all the spells you bought can bribe
your way past judgement. Or you might be good
and all your many noble deeds just could
balance the scale for you. Or not. The tribe

of beast-heads, sun gods, river gods,don't care
a bit for all your endless petty prayer!

Another remembrance day poem for my father


Joe and Bill trained together, learned to cut
bullets from shallow wounds, and how to strap
bruised ribs up. After that there was a gap
of several months, and then the Army put

them both in Egypt. They fought that campaign -
retreated then advanced across the sands.
Bill was the better shot; and Joseph's hands
did neater stitches. One night in the rain

just outside Rome - they'd got just one day's leave
and never made it into town. A priest
had made them serve High Mass five times, at least.
In the truck back to camp, you might believe

Bill dozing, till he slumped. Joe caught him, dead
A German sniper shot Bill in the head.