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Ukraine (Remove filter)


It’s not surprising there is some fatigue;

Far away lands of which we know not much

Soon regress once the novelty wears off

And the front page headlines have moved elsewhere.


There was that time, of course; Ukraine became

Everyone’s second-favourite country.

Top people swaggered in yellow and blue

And excited queues welcomed the displaced.


It couldn’t last. The ha...

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Day 644

Why do they try to murder Ukraine?

Why do they turn their hatred on us?

Why do they dump their anger again

And then feign surprise at all the fuss?


Why do they slaughter the best of our youth

And try to efface all the signs of our past,

Pretending to be the masters of truth,

Denying their part in each deadly blast?


Why do they wish to hollow us out

Why do they ...

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Don't Mess With The Post

The bare facts: they killed six and wounded seventeen

When a coward's rockets destroyed the Kharkiv Post.

Another crime to add to the burgeoning list.

I got used to loss at the Post when very young;

Christmas 70: my first job when still at school.

We started together, a young student and I.

Later that day, her bike was crushed by a lorry.

I was working the vans; everyone rushe...

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It’s a tough old job,

Lugging around the body bags.

I sweat and nearly stumble

Over the packed rows of stiffs.

I think I’ll change;

Get something in an office.

There’ll be a nice comfy chair,

And morning coffee

With a tasty slice of pie.

If you can be fatigued,

So can I.

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Slackers, or The View from Washington

Get out there and win the war, you slackers!

You’ve had tons of weapons from your backers.

They’re no excuse: defences, mines and tanks;

You’ve all you need to break enemy ranks.

Casualties? That’s just collateral stuff;

You mean you don’t know that war will be rough?

You know what they say: you can’t take the heat?

Vacate the kitchen and stare at defeat.

We’ve stumped up t...

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UkraineWar Fatigue

Crossword Clue

Last night, I met somebody from Ukraine;

He told me Mykolaiv was his town.

‘Oh, I’ve heard of it,’ I said. ‘In the East.’

‘Not really,’ he replied. ‘Near Odesa.’

Embarrassed, I had to apologise:

‘I got it confused with Mariupol.’

Although, of course, I realised my gaffe,

This exchange exposed the danger of war

As big-headlines and the superficial:

‘Starts with M, four sy...

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The Long Haul

They say we are in it for the long haul,

But the long haul is a poor existence.

Your options become rather limited:

Eat, sleep, work, fight, and live on subsistence.


I’ve driven lorries long haul to the West

And been to Asia on a long-haul flight,

But never put my neighbour in his grave,

Nor hid in shelters half way through the night.


Long haul relationships can b...

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You cannot see me,

But I can see you.

That’s how the war goes.

As you cross the road

Or jump on a bus,

I will destroy you

With minimum fuss.


But if you did spot me,

You would be amazed:

I’m no great colossus.

You’d miss me in the street,

As I have grown so small,

And, under the radar,

Hardly exist. At all.

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Daft as a Brush

The midnight attack got him. He swept floors

For forty years. Ordinary, no frills,

He carried on his work throughout the raids,

While cautious types like us would hunker down.

Close to retirement, he always swore

The cowards would not stop his night’s routine.

‘He’s as daft as his brush,’ some people said.

He made his choice, of course, as we made ours,

And he has paid the ...

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The Building

The pride of our town,

Its mortar and bricks

Now crumble to dust,

In heaps of destruction

And mollified lust.


Out there men are laughing

And punching the air;

They deal in high fives,

When hitting their mark

And ending more lives.

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The Youngest of the Dead

(On August 13, 2023, a 23-day old baby girl was killed by Russian shelling in the Ukrainian village of Shiroka Balka. Six other people were killed in the attack.)


There’s an old saying: ‘live for the day’.

I managed to do that. Twenty-three times.

And then – you probably know what happened.

You may ask the question: ‘am I angry?’

'For missing out on the next eighty years?'


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Soldier Boys

Here comes my son, the soldier boy;

He’ll always be my pride and joy.

I was so proud they would deploy

Someone so young, someone so young.


His face seemed hardly out of school;

Though he was kind and broke no rule,

They knew he was nobody’s fool,

For one so young, for one so young.


A picture in his uniform,

A buttoned coat to keep him warm,

He raced towards ...

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(Russian missiles have recently struck pizza restaurants in Kramatorsk and Pokrovsk in Ukraine, killing men, women and children)


Why do you hate our pizzerias?

Why do you target tomato and cheese?

What have you got against pepperoni?

Are our four seasons failing to please?


We pride ourselves on our ingredients;

Our service is rated second to none.

But your depraved s...

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The Body Politic

Politics lurks everywhere we look:

Politics of dithering and backtrack,

Of scaremongers and big-boy nostalgia.

Nowhere to hide. In the US of A,

Blusterman is lying through his teeth.

Meanwhile, the same old suspects starve,

Or steal to fill their bellies or their habit,

While, next door to this, others lead their lives,

Trying honesty to round off each year’s end.


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It has been quiet here so far;

The trick is getting through the day:

Ticking off hours, counting clouds,

Throwing pebbles into the lake.

I’m just one of the backroom boys,

I scrub up and write the labels.

It’s soldiers I feel sorry for;

Christ, there goes one, then another.

Poor bastard, sent flying towards

No-man’s land. I suppose that he’s….

That’s number five this ...

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Ukraine, SW19

I will not shake her hand;

Surely you understand?

My people, every day,

Will shake the hand of death.

Her kinsmen’s uncouth plan

Inflicts its pain and hurt

Across my native land,

Where bodies lie in dirt

Days after their last breath.

I was told I must play;

She is allowed to stand

And face me at the net.

It’s not her fault, and yet

I will not shake her hand.


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500 days

Five hundred days is far too long;

The war has come, good times have gone.

The chiefs talk tough, the bullets fly,

And combatants prepare to die.

The weak recoil before the strong,

Whose bells and whistles multiply

Into a dark, forbidding sky

And chill winds sing their mournful song.

Faced with this daily raid on time,

This awful pillage of our youth –

A hideous, demo...

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With every new obscenity,

We grope for the familiar

When we try to summarise death:

‘A trickle’, steady or constant,

Of civilian casualties.

Strange how we choose to illustrate

The rubbing out of human life.

Our terminology betrays

A culture ruled by quantities

And drip-drip measurements of loss,

Or, as likely, by the comfort,

Of images of gurgling streams,


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They’re coming for the writers now;

They’ll take out poets one by one.

These tellers of the awkward truths,

Who show them up for what they are,

Appear to constitute fair game

For slingshots scrounged from death’s bazaar.


(The Ukrainian writer and poet Victoria Amelina was killed in the missile strike on the pizza restaurant in Kramatorsk).

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Left Field

What if we should try the left field option?

And wandered off message or ditched the script,

And shouted out loud: ‘Just stop the killing’.

To save the people, not yet dead, from those

Like themselves, but dressed in different garb.

Save the lives, save the years still to be lived,

Stop the anguish, the tragedy, the waste.

Turn force-fed anger into peace, disarm,

Roll back ...

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Must we respect the niceties of war,

When enemies adhere to no such code?

Civility becomes a fatal flaw

Which adds some extra kilos to our load.


Our protocols are there for all to see,

And everyone agrees we must abide

By rules which are the price for living free,

Although they’re only honoured by one side.


Our foe abuses captives and denies

Their fundamental r...

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In support of Ukraine (or is this too political?)






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Fortunes of War


Doing the weekly supermarket shop,

He saw the cashier had just the one leg.

‘Landmine?’ he asked. ‘You’ve guessed it,’ she replied.

The man behind them pointed to his patch:

‘I was at the front. They shot out my eye.’

Still, mustn’t grumble. My friend and brother died.’

The queue went quiet; the scanner beeped on.

A woman entered, carrying a child,

Apparently deceased....

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Night Sight

The journalist asked nervously:

‘How many Russians have you shot?’

Juggling with his imprecision,

The marksman grunted ‘quite a lot.’


I suppose we should not be shocked,

Since he is fighting on our side,

But somehow you feel a shiver

When seeing how so many died.


You see them stalked like animals

By cold, nocturnal infra-red.

The night sight clicks; one pot,...

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We took back a village today.

Not much going on:

A few broken windows,

A burned-out car or two,

A corpse,

And one poor sap of a teenage soldier,

Hands on his head, crying out for Mum and Dad.


A broken old man emerges,

Shaking his fist and shouting ‘Kill them all.’

Another sits thoughtfully by the stream,

Praying for a missing child.


Our flag, mounted on a...

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Cold Soup

It seems that everybody’s fair game now.

In the town of Dnipro the other day

Their missiles claimed a two-year-old girl’s life.

And so we still have the moral high ground,

Until such time our side does something worse.

I want to have faith, believe there’s a God,

But was a decent man nailed to the cross

To make way for this dung heap of a world,

This foul dominion of the ha...

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We must have spoken far too soon;

I think we may have jumped the gun

When we waved patriotic flags

And romped around in blokey fun.


We thought that Bakhmut had caved in;

We thought that we would run the place,

But now it seems that victory

May bounce right back into our face.


We have lost thousands of our men,

Who we knew were expendable;

But we thought our ...

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Days of Sorrow

We live close to the stars,

But closer by the days:

From times which have long gone

Till the dawning of tomorrow.


Consider, for one moment,

The stars and the days, piled high:


The waste,

The loss,

The pain,

The grief,

The tortured sky.


The sorrow.

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Like a giant can of insect spray,

Or some demented farmer blitzing weeds,

The looming tank, vertiginously filmed,

Mows down a flock of soldiers in retreat.

Flushed out from their camouflage,

They scatter or they bite the dust.

Whose side were they on?

What does it matter?

You still have to step over them.

The military play their games,

The politicians giggle;


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‘How many of you live here?’

The man with the clipboard was asking.

Numbers are not my strong point

And I get a bit tongue-tied.

I reply, in a roundabout way:

‘Well, some, here and there;

Not many now;

Fewer than there used to be.’

‘Is that the best you can do?’

He snapped, looking peeved.

I slope off, inadequate,

Fumblingly imprecise.


Turning round, I see ...

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War Habits


Folding up your kit,

Cleaning out your gun,

Marching side by side,

Writing home to Mum.


Lobbing a grenade,

Fingers in your ears,

Larking with your mates,

Sinking twenty beers.


Blow the bastards up,

Keep your powder dry,

Punch the freezing air

As you watch them die.


Paying off the tarts,

Clearing body parts,

Bullet in the head:

Sorry ...

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Language Lessons

We do not know the future tense round here,

But deal in possibilities and mays;

Learning hypotheticals and options

And other such conditional displays.


Predictions in our world remain unsafe;

Coming weeks and months are speculation.

We may be staying here or going home;

Others will decide our situation.


We say ‘good morning,’ ‘thank you for your help’:

Phrases ...

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Sloviansk (14 April 2023)

Another toddler has copped it today;

They dragged him from the mess but then he died.

Attacks could come with heaviness of heart;

Those in charge know full well what may happen,

And might express regret for dirty tasks.

But no, each life has now become fair game;

All are equal before the randomness,

The cheap terror of such vague precision.

Yes, the good die young, but the ...

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We think the only victims in a war

Are those with names engraved who rise no more.

But we should spare a thought for those who live,

Those damaged souls with so much more to give:

Exploits in the battle oft unspoken,

Hearts and minds decayed or simply broken.

So many of them suffer from a loss

And find it tough to put a smiling gloss

On situations which become so hard


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Glory Days


These pictures look quite dated now,

Like all those old films that we see.

That’s you, returning on the bus,

And, picking up the kids, it’s me.


Back in the glory days of peace,

We lived together hand in glove.

Our future seemed mapped out in stone,

The present sparkled with our love.


Now that seems like another world;

Your letters from afar arrive,


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You hear your mother's voice,

You hear your father's voice,

From beneath the rubble

Of the savaged building.

Happily credulous,

You dig with your bare hands

And cry out loud for help.

But none comes, nothing moves.

Real life, in guise of death,

Has stripped away the scales.

With its offending heart,

The cruel ventriloquist,

Yapping at your conscience,

Is put ...

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Milk Bottles

In the great tempest of eighty-seven,

Mum and Dad remembered milk bottles

Bouncing and blowing down their quiet street.

Incredibly, none of them were broken,

Though hordes of healthy trees were smashed to bits.

But soldiers do not escape so lightly:

One bullet shot is easily enough

To shatter for good their unprotected shield.

The broken glass has to be collected

And put...

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Державний Гімн України State Anthem of Ukraine

I've just found this recording of a little girl singing the Ukraine National Anthem.

I first heard her singing "Let it Go" whilst she was in a bunker in Kyiv, a while back.

This is heart-breaking to listen to.

My thoughts and prayers are for the people of Ukraine, and for the people of Russia, including journalists and other actvists who are doing what they can to stop this evil madness.


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Pot Shots

Courtesy of lily-livered missiles

(Tactical? Strategic? Who on Earth cares?)

Ukrainians lose the rest of their lives,

While eating lunch or dinner in their flats.

My thoughts drift to twittish highland royals,

And double-barrelled toffs who hunt for stags,

Which bleed and stagger round for days on end

Before they die in bouts of howling pain.

It is all part of a continuum:


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Who includes diversity...

Written in March 2023: one year on.

(...sees races, eras, dates, generations,

The past, the future, dwelling there, like space, inseparable together"

Walt Whitman, Kosmos)



Only fragile glass

                                   holds the cold

                                                                night's times at bay:

each star above the beech

owning its mo...

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wartimeUkraineWalt Whitman

Resistant News

Written in March 2022 in response to Simon Armitage's 'Resistance'

We watch

                      the News


                to comprehend

the horror that is war:

we see

destruction... death... weeping...

children who do not understand

      held in the arms of mothers

                who do not understand




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war poetryUkraineresistancerussia

Dumb Animals

When the old Soviet leaders

Went hunting for the day,

The animals were sedated

To make them easy prey.


Some decades in the future,

They send in droves to war

Minds numbed so much they do not know

What they are fighting for.


I guess there is a parallel;

It always has been thus.

Lemming and lamb go to their doom

With bare bones of a fuss.


While some...

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This indescribable Hell.

Go ahead, describe it:

You are bound to come up short.

Those nearby can’t do the job;

To them it’s still neighbourhood,

And photographs, as we know,

Will never do it justice.

Perhaps this is the way Hell

Gets away with its nonsense;

Its mammoth violation

Too vast to get a grip on,

So that no one even tries.

A brief sun bursts through the...

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Tears In The Rain

Savour this warmth

Within me you see

For, what shall return 

May no longer be me


That which these eyes

Have still yet to see

May make a small shell

Of all I could be


Though, I fear I may not

Come back at all

Lying still and alone

Wherever I fall


Show my daughter a photo 

When her world feels small

The one where we're laughing 

At nothing ...

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It’s only anonymity

Which makes us go to war;

When soldiers meet up face to face

They wonder what it’s for.


They talk of friends and relatives,

About whom they all care;

Discuss the beauty of the world,

Which they delight to share.


They do not bow to nation states

Or military types,

Whose mission is to keep them down

By tapping on their stripes.



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The risk is there's nothing left but hate,

Or loathing and calls for revenge.

Should we prevail, one understands;

In battle, feelings are stripped down,

Until all that remains is raw,

Sensitive to the lightest touch

And far too easily provoked.

It’s simple, from many miles away,

To preach reconciliation

And call for offering of hands.

Less straightforward if family


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The Late Show

We used to sit out in the Maidan Square

Before the war, and chat into the night;

Our arguments continued well past twelve.

We called ourselves the late show, like TV.

But now there is a late show every day:

Late husbands, brought back home in body bags;

Late wives, uncovered by a fire crew;

Late children, each identified by toys,

Beneath the expendable wrecks of schools.


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Tread softly, the poet said, on my dreams.

Ukraine: a girl with a hunger for life

Took a detour on her way to school

To pick some early snowdrops for the class,

And some as a present for the teacher.

Cowardice is not equal in a war:

If you run from fighting, you are punished,

But if you scarper after laying mines,

You are feted as a hero, adorned

With medals, as your unk...

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Reluctant Soldier

The sky looked weary 

Pale and colourless 

As were we

I laid down my rifle

and thought of what I'd told her

I'd left it in the hollow of her mind

In the place where dreams ascend 

So, when the day came 

they could carry 

all that grief & sorrow away

and feed it to the clouds

for when they felt like crying

And on that day

Laden with the burden of

a thousand...

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Total War

It’s bizarre that Eurovision,

That riot of drivel and camp,

Became a combatant in war:

Builders bopped to the Ukraine song.

Politicians of every sort

Are decked out in blue and yellow.

Hollywood types, shocked in their awe,

Enlist and worship at the shrine.

Lottery winners in hard hats

View body bags through telescopes.

Pray silence for the giant screen.

The workin...

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