Two war poems (edited!)



In those final quickening hours

we sat, and weighed the snare-drum rhythm

of our failing hearts, sucking warmth from

close-pinched cigarettes and old memories.

Our sergeant paced, checked his watch for lies,

and ignored the muffled sobs disguised as coughs

-  his whistle hanging heavy as a prayer.


Seconds fell like dominoes, and in the dark,

kisses fell on photographs and scented words

of love and hope. A trembling hand, a whistle

burning arid lips. A banshee scream all down

the line. In that void, where time meets fate,

we were no longer men. Just shadows,

dancing on the rim of hell.



The Lost Boys


at seventeen he’d never known the opiate thrill of love,

or the brand of burning lips against his skin,

or wept with tears of joy and lost all cares and all reserve,

in heady, headlong nights of glorious sin.

he’d never sipped the finest malts or staggered blindly home,

or danced, drunk with champagne, beneath the sky

or been loved so much he felt as god, invincible and proud

no woman’s tears had ever made him cry.


every day he’d watched men die and heard the razor screams,

seen bodies, rotting in this sea of mud,

and quaked beneath the thunder of a thousand heavy guns,

all spattered with his fallen comrades’ blood.

he’d slipped beneath the wire into a swarm of hissing lead,

followed orders that his hero sergeant gave,

and stumbled back through nightmares and the bodies of his friends

in this world between the devil and the grave.


and when these months of horror had reduced him to a shell;

a broken boy who’s mind was burnt and torn,

with no more will to fight than the will he had to live

they took him to a quiet field at dawn.

a telegram was handed to his mother back at home

shaming him for cowardice, and yet,

which one of us could contemplate the horrors he endured?

just boys,

    lest we forget,

   lest we forget.



◄ risk

undercurrents ►


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winston plowes

Tue 28th Jul 2009 23:04

Hi Anthony, Your poem Shadowmen is tight and full of imagery and maintains that lump in the throat for me that must have been a permanent sensation for those inhabiting last ditch homes on 'The rim of hell' brilliant finishing words those, long silence after I think for most readers....... and rightly so. Win x

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Wed 22nd Jul 2009 08:41

No man should have to go to war the way they went in the first world war - cannon fodder, with poor leadership and total disregard for life - they didn't even have a choice about being there. At least weapons of mass destruction have given us that....

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Steve Regan

Tue 21st Jul 2009 20:21

In the first poem these lines worked really well ...

"Our sergeant paced, checked his watch for lies,

and ignored the muffled sobs disguised as coughs

- his whistle hanging heavy as a prayer."

The second poem evokes unbearable sadness at the loss of young lives; lives hardly lived. And past notions of cowardice and the penalties imposed as a result, were so wrong.

And yet, and yet, sometimes (maybe most of the time) if peace is to be built on sure foundations, then nations have to go to war. It has always been so; always will be.

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Tue 21st Jul 2009 09:16

Not sure I didn't like it better without the edit!! LOL

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Mon 20th Jul 2009 21:21

Sorry I mean Christine - can't be bothered deleting and retyping.

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Mon 20th Jul 2009 21:19

It's funny Cynthia but I wondered about whether it should be never or ever and decided that Anthony had probably decided to go for never. The implication being that often young (and older) men can be unmoved by a woman's distress - not a million miles from the truth LOL but at least Anthony acknowledges it - good on you Anthony - unless of course Cynthia is right and it was an oversight.

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Chris Dawson

Mon 20th Jul 2009 09:33

Always love your work Anthony, even though I don't always comment, and these two are certainly worthy of comment.
Could I just make a couple of small suggestions?
- in 'Lost Boys' v1 - perhaps 'no woman's tears had ever made him cry'?
- and v2 - I don't think it needs 'but every day' in the first line ..... it dilutes the power of men dying with razor screams.
Excellent stuff.

<Deleted User> (5646)

Sat 18th Jul 2009 13:02

I love these poems too.
Imagery, style, emotions aplenty.


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Sat 18th Jul 2009 10:01

Oh Anthony - such powerful writing, you made me want to cry. Move over Wilfred Owen. Beautiful, totally original imagery - as Cynthia says, heart-rending. I'm glad you posted the two poems together; the flow of one to the other works and reinforces the message. I'm also glad you are posting again.
Isobel x

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Cynthia Buell Thomas

Fri 17th Jul 2009 16:48

Are these powerful lines just swelling out of you now with the events of this past week? Or have you been hovering over them for awhile, spinning them in your head? Very heart-rending images skillfully shared.

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