The Beast Of War

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1941

 

Before the war, Dad would snore

After his shift & a few beers

On the floor, on the couch

The big, lazy slouch

 

Mam would just roll her eyes

(Give him a sly dig)

Clootie pudding on the table ready

For when his eyes opened slow & steady

 

He never spoke of 'The Great War'

Of which he had scars to bare 

But sometimes his eyes would well

In remembrance of tales he'd never tell 

 

When we enlisted (My brother and I)

His eyes welled once more

Mam bent her head down low

Less afraid to let tears flow

 

My Brother: ever eager to enlist

Had waited 'til I was of age

To him, it must have seemed forever

But we were always going to join together 

 

1944

 

When I awoke in the room of white

Minus a leg, and a big Brother

I was drowsy in forgetful bliss

Not understanding the meaning of miss

 

Mam was holding my hand

Her tears, tributaries to a floored pool

I couldn't even remember her name

But, I knew she was an angel

just the same

 

After the telegram, Dad had 'fell'

To the bottom of a mineshaft 

One Son missing, one killed in action

Mam always blamed him for his reaction

 

She passed away, some years later

A frail echo of herself

She: my crutch & my nurse

I: the chauffeur to her hearse 

 

I carried on with bitterness & hate

Wallowing in self pity & whiskey

A pathetic figure to ridicule 

'Behold! the one legged fool!'

 

On dark nights of old shadows

My Brother's bloody corpse would visit

He would do nothing but stand

My severed leg in his hands

 

You forgot this, Brother

is, perhaps, what he was saying

I'd left it somewhere on the beach

As he was shredded just out of reach

 

Requiem

 

I never got over the loss of my Brother

Or my Father, or my Mother

Never got over the loss of myself

My physical form, my mental health

 

In truth, I never left that sand

Where Life & Death rolled hand in hand

Where brothers fought

And fathers died

Where mankind found nowhere to hide

Our truest nature laid bare to see

The brave, the mad, the cowardly

Ablaze with mortar, bullets & fire

A spectacle of a funeral pyre

 

War, is a figment of the human mind

In those with power who stumble blind

Seduced & reduced by another's ill actions

A recurring loop of eternal reaction

 

It not only destroys those who fight

Whole families suffer from its plight

No lessons are learnt from countless years

Of those who've cried a million tears

 

Epitaph

 

I am the rotting fruit of time

Dying on my withered vine

Forgotten & lost in dead end streets

An ill wind tugs my cardboard sheets

 

And, as I lie on cusp of death

Gasping in my final breath

I fear that deep within our core

Will forever lie

                 The Beast of War...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

mental healthveteransWar

◄ The Blanket

Don't Forget ►

Comments

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Ursula O'Reilly

Sat 27th Nov 2021 00:48

You are very welcome.
Yes, I agree, Great magazine and fab poem.

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Stephen Atkinson

Fri 26th Nov 2021 23:35

Thank you very much John!
And Ursula for taking time to comment & for reading Poetry Plus!
Some great poets grace the pages & I'm glad you liked my contribution. ?

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John Coopey

Fri 26th Nov 2021 21:46

Powerful stuff, Stephen. It builds and builds. Great ending.

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Ursula O'Reilly

Fri 26th Nov 2021 18:15

Hi Stephen,
I read your poem today in 'Poetry Plus' magazine.
I just loved it so much. Fabulous poem!
I agree with the other comments. Well done indeed, and
thank you.

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Stephen Atkinson

Thu 4th Nov 2021 12:22

Thank you so much for the comments
Holden & Julie ?
Stephen, Tom & M.C. Wonderful comments from wonderful poets.
And, yes M.C. let's hope we never fully understand the horrors that so many have endured. Thanks again ??

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M.C. Newberry

Wed 3rd Nov 2021 13:09

Brutally powerful. I have a feeling that a certain WW1 poet
who wrote of the lowering of blinds would applaud this writing.
Bravery and cowardice...those two creations of circumstance...
will always linger, the thought of which can be as destructive
as any shell to the mind and body. I wonder if a lack of
imagination and a surfeit of it can create their existence at any given time in the confused hell that is war. Over the top one
moment....cowering, arms wrapped around heads, the next.
This is an admirable accomplishment about a horror-filled subject that only those who have experienced it can fully
understand.

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Tom

Wed 3rd Nov 2021 11:27

Fantastically written and incredibly moving. Great writing Stephen. I hope you're sharing it widely, this deserves to be read by many.

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Stephen Gospage

Tue 2nd Nov 2021 17:13

A superbly accomplished, moving poem, which becomes more profound with each verse. The rhymes are an integral part but the power of the language means that one hardly notices them.

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julie callaghan

Tue 2nd Nov 2021 16:13

No words, only tears!?

Holden Moncrieff

Tue 2nd Nov 2021 15:29

Very haunting and moving, Stephen! ?

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