Fingernails blackened, like the charred corpses of those boys
Hanging on barbed wire like the king’s forgotten toys
Crouching in the cold puddle
the water snaking round my feet
Wishing an end to this desperate cold
wakeful I wait the mortars heat
The Captain’s nearly twenty
I didn’t understand his words
But if he sends us back over
then he’s just another turd
Don’t wanna die, don’t wanna live
if this is now my home
Looking into faces paler than a glacier
lit under this moonlight dome
stinking shit in men’s breeches
the doctor with his awful leeches
My tiny tin, my pleasure, lace and a wire twist
a twinkling marble, my childhood treasure
but my hands won’t stop trembling
body and mind slowly disassembling
No space for peace
no more talk of treaties
No longer care whose side I’m on
Can’t think at all under the screaming screaming bombs
Want to go home
want my mummy and my dad
Didn’t know at seventeen
that life could get this bad
Sergeant major’s guns out
he's pointing it at me
Gesturing the ladder
that leads to eternity
My legs won’t take me
my sergeant can’t make me
I put his gun in my mouth
I ask him to take me
I have no doubt
and from this horror
I find my way out....
Anthem For Doomed Youth
What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds
Suicide in the Trenches
I knew a simple soldier boy
Who grinned at life in empty joy,
Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
And whistled early with the lark.
In winter trenches, cowed and glum,
With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
He put a bullet through his brain.
No one spoke of him again.
You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you'll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go
This book is not about heroes. English poetry is not yet fit to speak of them. Nor is it about deeds, or lands, nor anything about glory, honour, might, majesty, dominion, or power, except War. Above all I am not concerned with Poetry. My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity ... Wilfred Owen's words about his book of poetry before he was killed in action...
Pat Barker's Regeneration Trilogy, including for me most especially the third novel The Ghost Road. The most fascinating and haunting contempory literature I have read about The Great War ...