Today, 11.11.2010 I read some nice sentiments about Veterans Day on Facebook. A poet-friend posted that fine & famous Flanders Field poem by the Canadian WWI doctor which moved me.
But one line in it stuck out, the “foe” line urging us to carry on the fight…
My “Bill Buckley” poem carries a different message. See what you think.
“A KISS FOR BILL BUCKLEY” –A POEM
FOR A SHELL-SHOCKED COBH MAN
Bill Buckley was a Cobh man
who fought in World War One.
“For King & Country” he signed on:
they gave Bill a shilling and a gun.
Ten million lost their lives on Flanders Field
(–do they push up poppies still?)
Another twenty million lost a limb or two;
yet more lost shell-shocked minds –like Bill.
Bombs that burst in air; four years of boredom;
mud & rats & poison gas that ate out lungs;
& baskets to keep basket cases in one place.
Shells that shocked and shells that shattered, so
loud & for so long, they ground the entrenched
soldiers down & made some Trembling Mad. And
when Bill Buckley trembled too, the sergeant said
“Pull yourself together man & stop that faking!”)
In the palaces, it was A Very Different War: Regal-
Rival Cousin Kings & Czars & Kais’rs with wax’d
& twirly facial hair & heavy-medall’d chests. And
endless Stars & Bars of This & That & Orders of
the Other. & Scrambled Egg & Braided Sash &
Epaulet’d Ostrich Plumes. And Ceremonial Swords!
:a rifle just looks WRONG in a palace-portrait!
All-in-all a Lovely War! So dulce, so decorum!
But, straddle worlds of bravery & folly? Connect
the realms of Mud & Marble? A war so much
the very model of a Comic-Opera Holocaust?
(And, by all accounts, –absolutely no-one’s fault!)?
“The War to End All Wars” War; the “Never-Again”
& “War is Over” Wars. Not to mention, “The War
is Over & Over” War -The War that started WWII?
Back home poor Bill lived out his lonely postwar
years, a blood-shot shell-shocked shadow of his
pre-war self; possessed by the unrelenting ghosts
of Flanders Field who followed him to Cobh.
As kids we’d see him rage & shout on Laundry Hill
at demons in the tall dark trees across the road.
Squaring-off, he’d call them out in that “Come on,
you bastards: put up your dukes” angry voice.
He scared us kids –until we too were old enough
to get the joke: it was only Bill.
One day on Laundry Hill my father & my sister
(–not yet ten) saw Bill again take on the ghosts.
& when my Dad explained the Shell-Shocked
Pain of War that made life hell, my ten year old
sister crossed the road & gave poor Bill a kiss!
[A kiss that had to last dear Bill a lifetime!]
[ End of Excerpt #11.]
The new book is very close to being finished. You can follow successive excerpts here on my blog. And/or –reserve your copy at the pre-publication price of $24 ( plus handling) by e-mailing your reservation to me at email@example.com.