i.m. Captain Keith Douglas (1920-1944)

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In Calvados you have your cross

And though you won, you most surely lost.

Your sacrifice, at twenty-four, to modern wit

Is nothing more than a crying bore.


Who now has read Alamein to Zem Zem

Your story of the war in the western desert?

For though you certainly knew how to kill

You knew the cost, for you had no draperies over your eyes.

No deception, no disguise.


And when you were chained to an office,

Hidebound behind the front line,

Somebody laid a coin upon your tongue

And lyric water sprang anew amongst the desert flowers.

You very nearly lost your mind. So in October 1942,

Against orders, you set off to see what you could do.

This venial sin was soon forgotten in the crush of war

And you drove your tank indomitably!


And then on the 9 June1944,

As keen to ‘to do your bit’ as you’d been in 1939,

Normandy took your life

Killed by enemy fire,

Your body was buried in a road side grave:

After the war your dear remains were reinterred at Tilly-sur-Seulles

War Cemetery, south of Bayeux, plot 1, row E, grave number 2

Go, you can see.





🌷 (2)

◄ Feral Youth

To the ghost-dancers of the Sioux ►


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John Marks

Sun 13th Aug 2017 00:48

Very belatedly, but no less sincerely, thank you, David.

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Wolfgar Miere

Sat 14th Jan 2017 14:10

I haven't read much Keith Douglas but probably will rectify that now. I skipped over your piece a couple of times but was somehow drawn back by the portrait you attached to the poem, and am now glad that I was.

Stories and faces get sadly lost and forgotten. Thanks for re-opening this for me, at least.

The final line seems so regimented and effectively so, just as war is once the chaos and futility is over. We document, file and systematically sterilise and dilute everything into history.

I enjoyed this, thanks John.


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