Posted in Army, Poetry

The Ballad of the White Poppy

landscape red field flowers
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Red poppies worn proudly and tears left unshed

The white poppy scornful of those who have bled.

The last post they played and two minutes stood still,

Reveille revives them from November’s chill.

 

A wife and her son watch the vanishing crowd,

Together in sadness in their mist made shroud.

Their soldier returned from a conflict so raw

He just couldn’t cope and began to withdraw.

 

His day of endurance his fight to survive

One more like all others, his ghosts to deprive.

Another night darkens and street lights turn on

Awaiting the morning, bad dreams to be gone.

 

She wonders ‘Where is he?’ and checks the doorways,

Her son he looks at her with his father’s gaze.

She squeezes his hand, he has grown up so tall.

Now home to the medals and to the Albert Hall.

 

Whores, thieves and wretches they all step around,

His eyes, they all know, still see a battleground.

A hand on his shoulder revives and consoles

The hot soup designed to save many lost souls.

 

The big empty bed and a breakfast for two

An empty place setting – if only he knew.

When he was on tour at least bluies they’d write

But now there was nothing, the day gave no light.

 

Fitfully sleeping to block out the day

His beds behind stations are then moved away.

Out of the rain but not out of the cold

If only he’d known this when he’d first enrolled.

 

The school run and home, they can both feel the chill.

She takes down his photo from a windowsill,

Puts it in a bag with the rest of the gear

Then leaves once again to find one they hold dear.

 

He misses the structure of his army life

And can’t bear to think about his child and wife.

The pain and the guilt drive their faces away

His head choked with thoughts of that one awful day.

 

Hostels and soup kitchens, picture in hand,

They’re searching the desert for one grain of sand.

The city is packed with the homeless and lost

But they’ll keep on searching, whatever the cost.

 

A churchyard tonight, his bed lies in a lee

The bright shining poppies a welcome red sea.

His friends may be missed, maimed or dead, many gone

But here with the poppies their memories live on.

 

“I’m sorry my darling we’ll try tomorrow.”

“I’ll be here again mum, as always, you know.”

Footsore and dejected they turn to go home

The world a dark place of a grey monochrome.

 

  A white poppy shines in the midst of the red

If he could just find some peace inside his head.

His heart scarce believes it, his mind it protests

As two friendly faces look down where he rests.

 

His son clasps his shoulder, his wife turns to say

“Would you like a drink to keep the cold at bay?”

Their eyes shine with love as they pass him some tea

And his tears fall unguarded on the white poppy.

 

He’s obliged to so many, his war has ended

His gratitude’s boundless for all that they did.

Two years have now passed and things have moved apace.

His family are comforted in his embrace.

 

Red poppies worn proudly for what went before,

The white for his family, the peace that they bore.

The Last Post they played and two minutes stood still.

Reveille revives them from November’s chill.

sunset sun horizon priroda
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Posted in Army, Outdoors

The Gurkhas Softly Singing

Haunting sounds drift over from the next truck, enveloping us in the spiritual embrace of another world.  The Gurkhas are softly singing. 

 We are lying inside our cotton liners on the back of our DROPS, looking up at the sky and thinking how surreal it all is.  Two weeks ago we were in Wales, dodging summer showers and speeding traffic.  Now we’re in the desert looking up at the cloudless Iraqi sky listening to strangers chanting.  We’re all so far from home. 

desert during nighttime
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This tiny patch of desert is destined to become a bustling army encampment, but for now, only one tent keeps our four wagons company.  The full moon softly caresses ripples of dusty sand below us, casting blue-grey shadows into the hollows.  Above, millions of stars sprinkled across the heavens are more vivid with the absence of man-made lighting.  The smell of hot sand finally cooling after another scorching day, mingles with the scent of sweating bodies and diesel engines ‘pinking’ as they cool.  

There is no breeze, no rustling vegetation, no scurrying animals or rumbling machinery.  It would be silent in this endless, empty space if it were not for the singing.  For tonight though, the warm scents, the heat of the night, the gentle moonlight and the lullaby, cocoon us in a comfort blanket, softly soothing us into restful sleep.   

Tomorrow’s worries will wait.

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