1918 by Tony Lewis Jones

I am younger than the century. A boy, you think,

But I am chained to a machine gun

Capable of ending a thousand lives

And this makes me a man.

 

There will be no withdrawl.

The officers have warned us:

Here, in our trenches, we fight or die

And no one is to cut me free.

 

In pity for my situation,

Don’t mistake me. I’m as frightened

As the newly wedded bank clerk we all tease

Who’s never known his wife; frightened

 

As the English, waiting to attack

When dawn reveals the cratered wasteground

Under my machine gun’s eye

Like, me, they’re chained to cirrcumstance;

 

The future doesn’t favour deals.

I have to trust my comrades and my gun:

No need to aim this thing. Bring on the enemy.

Let’s see some daylight. Death, release your slaves.

 

By Tony Lewis Jones

Prayer by Anna Akhmatova

Grant me years of sickness and fever;

make me sleepless for months at a time.

Take away my child and my lover

and the mysterious gift of rhyme.

As the air grows ever more sultry,

this is the prayer I recite:

and may the storm cloud over my country

be shot through with rays of light.

 

 

by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)

(11 May 1915, Day of the Holy Spirit), St Petersburg

translation by Robert Chandler

‘How Can You Look At The Neva…’ by Anna Akhmatova

How can you look at the Neva,

Stand on bridges just the same? …

No wonder I’ve borne signs of grieving

Since the night your image came.

 

Sharp are the black angels’ wings,

Soon the judgement of the dead,

And street bonfires blazing red

Like roses in snow are flowering.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1914)

– from Белая стая (White Flock, 1917) translation by D. M. Thomas

The Poppies Do Not Weep For You

You pulled apart her crimson petal folds and exposed her dark warmth. You didn’t like that she had been fertile by another before. But then it didn’t stop you craving her alabaster tears did it? Good men like you used violence and threats to get what you wanted. Especially when defending your misbegotten sense of pride.

Others fought with you for a cause no one believed in. Those who abstained you called chickens, ostracised and called upon the women back home to shame on your behalf while you took comfort in another’s arms within foreign tracts of land. You fought the good fight, as did your opponents, each believing the same thing but on opposite sides of a land no man could ever live in. Only the poppies and the crows attended them.

You became damaged in time and that beloved red whore’s tears were all that could numb your pain, numb the reoccurring memories and helped you forget what you had done. At first you could deal with it because others gave you it in small vials but in time you needed them more and more until you took what you could get and drowned in them. Other good men were brought to ruin too but you were hidden away in your shame of weeping wounds.

Those who had abstained, unlike you, could live their life, as the sepia memories faded like a photograph in the stark sunlight, but you were nothing more than a rotting skeleton in a low lit dragon’s den where you had long given up the chase to survive.

Those who didn’t return with you still lay in that foreign land, foreign even to its locals, as the poppies feasted upon their flesh of those good men laid low and drank their saviours’ blood as if it were wine. Good men still giving to the land they defended even in death.

Your favourite harlot can no longer soothe your ills with her tears. She never could. There are no tears that can soothe such a good man’s ills.


It’s pointless to edit this or make it better. There is no payback and it is a waste of time. Someone will steal this and use it elsewhere. Some kid too lazy to do their own English comprehension homework. They will not get good marks for it.