Tag Archives: World War II

‘Fragments of Inheritance’ by Karin Heyer (Fragment 3, FreeSpace #3)

17 Dec

Fragments

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‘Whatever else it is autobiography is not non-fiction’

(Timothy Dow Adams, Modern Fiction Studies, 40)

Welcome to Karin’s last FreeSpace on ArtiPeeps  in which she has been exploring the relationship between autobiography and fiction through her own autobiographical story ‘Fragments of Inheritance’. Within her three slots on ArtiPeeps she has offered up, in sequence, a part of her story along with an audio reflection of her response to the particular fragment that we have featured. This week it’s Fragment 3 and the concluding part of her story. Karin lived through a very particular part of European history (WWII) and her work engages with very significant subject matter that is universally meaningful and individually personal. We hope you enjoy Karin’s last exploration.

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Fragments of Inheritance

Fragment 3

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**

She needed distraction from her thoughts. She chose to go to the City of Ely and visit Ely Cathedral. Along the winding road to this ancient place, suddenly, this magical building rises out of the flat landscape on the right-hand side and after a while the road bends and then strangely the cathedral appears to be on the other side of the road!!! There she is, Ely Cathedral, story of survival, beautiful and wise. She enters with a serious heart, it is Remembrance Day. She walks to the Octagon, turns left into the heart of the place reaching the ‘Showcases of Remembrance’, where on this day the letter ‘M’ mourns the lives of soldiers who lost their lives in WW2.

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She lights a candle and remembers them.

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living for the evidence of remembrance 1995
mourning: the dead
madness of persecution
lunacy of war
the irreparable destruction of children in war
disrespect for the preciousness of human
life of all kind
forgive or not forgive
but tell your story of that dark time
for the sake of time to come.

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 You can find Fragment 1 here and Fragment 2 here

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Biography

I was born on the 4th of November 1937, just one day before Gun-powder Day! So, I celebrated my entrance with a BANG, yet far away from England then, in fact, in Leipzig, Germany. After the end of the Second World War, Leipzig in Saxony became part of East-Germany, which I left, illegally, in 1953. My family and I settled in West-Berlin, where I went to High-School, when finished there I left Berlin for Cambridge, England. I was a student of English for a while, took a BA Honours Degree in European Thought and Literature and English History at Anglia Polytechnic University, where I also took a MA in Women’s Studies with a Dissertation on German History. I became a teacher of the German Language,Literature and History during my working life. I have now retired from teaching and find myself writing, reading and enjoying life to the full.

As yet Karin does not have a website, but you can make contact with Karin via ArtiPeeps through the comment box on this post or contact form on the ‘What’s On’ Page.

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* FreeSpace offers any creative or group from any discipline  3 post slots on ArtiPeeps which can be taken in sequence or in a cluster for showcasing, self-expression or projects (encouraged). If you are interested in taking up a FreeSpace slot in our next run of work please do get in contact via the comment box or contact form on the What’s On Page  You’d be welcomed.

‘Fragments of Inheritance’ by Karin Heyer (Fragment 2, FreeSpace #2)

11 Dec

Fragments

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‘Whatever else it is autobiography is not non-fiction’

(Timothy Dow Adams, Modern Fiction Studies, 40)

Welcome to Karin’s second  FreeSpace on ArtiPeeps  in which she is going to be exploring the relationship between autobiography and fiction through her own autobiographical story ‘Fragments of Inheritance’. Within her three slots on ArtiPeeps she will be offering up, in sequence, a part of her story along with an audio reflection of her response to the particular fragment that we have featured. This week it’s Fragment 2. Karin lived through a very particular part of European history (WWII) and her work engages with very significant subject matter that is universally meaningful and individually personal. We hope you enjoy Karin’s exploration.

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Fragments of Inheritance

Fragment 2

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Now she returned to Leipzig after an absence of 34 years. She is on her way to visit a friend to whom she only had written or sent parcels at Christmas-time, because that was all she could do. The car turned a corner, here she was: Karl-Liebknecht-Srasse, 91, Leipzig, Germany, we are one country again. One country. East-Germany had seized to exist, but the houses and the ruins told a different story. Hitler’s legacy was still visible here and she recalled the horrors of war, the Holocaust, the destruction of men, women and children of all races, beliefs and talents, whose lives she mourned.

This was not a country of which she could be proud.

She greeted her friend with a full heart. She talked, but she was burning to see the centre of the city again. She wanted to discover her childhood at will. She wanted to meet the long-buried other. She walked along the streets, where she knew she had experienced this architecture before, saw the trams rattling along, ‘kling’, ‘kling’. She does not take a tram, she savours the walk, she fathoms the atmosphere, slowly reaching the centre of her birthplace. She stands bemused on the Karl-Marx-Platz, the clock is on the hour, sombre bells suddenly sound, hit her ear: the bell-ringers strike the hour. Back, back, backwards I go. I stood here before! I have heard these bells long ago. Yes, when I was little, just seven years old, 1944. I remember this song, this melody of bells. I glide backwards into my past. It was war then, when peoples purple blood burst, bells weep, where she learned the meaning of ‘Angst’.

And there she was once again amidst a familiar sound-scape and heavy inheritance, facing her fears still living and breathing in the Now, still vivid, visceral…

…and all the memories and circumstance melted through once again…

Cellars of Fear

This 4. December 1944, NIGHT, sounds of sirens, get the children, house shaking, lights fade, people running into cellars, trying to save their lives.

I choke because of smoke in the cellar, the cellar an awesome place, huge pipes run through it, modern technology – a central heating system, it could burst.

It is utter darkness, will I get out of this cauldron of misery seven years old, having lost a just war against Hitler when I was born in 1937. Evil starting under the guise of progress in 1939.

I am still speechless now in 1995, thinking of cruelty, the holocaust, suffering that need not be.

My memories of war are horrific: stifling smoke in the cellar, my granny-aged, my baby-sister in pram not conceiving this lunacy or innocence conceiving lunacy, my mother trying to rescue some possessions from our home above burning. An old man – not fit for fighting in the war came to our cellar. He took me into his arms, carried me covered with a wet sack through the burning streets of Leipzig. All streets around us burning houses, full of lives trying to survive. Flying burning beams fell beside our distracted heads seeking safety in a street blocks away which did not burn yet. No thought of my mother, sister, grandmother, just being saved for some saner place in this burning inferno. My mother, baby-sister, grandmother were saved the same way.

All I can remember are cellars of fear, but escaping into what? What kind of life could there be after that.

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Yes, what life? This burning inferno was deeply buried into her subconscious. But now she must live forwards. A sun-beam struck her, today there was a blue, kind sky above her, the dominant sky of the Fens of East-Anglia, where she now lived.

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Biography

I was born on the 4th of November 1937, just one day before Gun-powder Day! So, I celebrated my entrance with a BANG, yet far away from England then, in fact, in Leipzig, Germany. After the end of the Second World War, Leipzig in Saxony became part of East-Germany, which I left, illegally, in 1953. My family and I settled in West-Berlin, where I went to High-School, when finished there I left Berlin for Cambridge, England. I was a student of English for a while, took a BA Honours Degree in European Thought and Literature and English History at Anglia Polytechnic University, where I also took a MA in Women’s Studies with a Dissertation on German History. I became a teacher of the German Language,Literature and History during my working life. I have now retired from teaching and find myself writing, reading and enjoying life to the full.

As yet Karin does not have a website, but you can make contact with Karin via ArtiPeeps through the comment box on this post or contact form on the ‘What’s On’ Page.

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Karin will be returning with Fragment 3 of ‘Fragments of Inheritance’ on Tuesday 17th December.

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* FreeSpace offers any creative or group from any discipline  3 post slots on ArtiPeeps which can be taken in sequence or in a cluster for showcasing, self-expression or projects (encouraged). If you are interested in taking up a FreeSpace slot in our next run of work please do get in contact via the comment box or contact form on the What’s On Page  You’d be welcomed.

‘Fragments of Inheritance’ by Karin Heyer (Fragment 1, FreeSpace #1)

4 Dec

Fragments

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‘Whatever else it is autobiography is not non-fiction’

(Timothy Dow Adams, Modern Fiction Studies, 40)

Welcome to Karin’s first FreeSpace on ArtiPeeps  in which she is going to be exploring the relationship between autobiography and fiction through her own autobiographical story ‘Fragments of Inheritance’. Within her three slots on ArtiPeeps she will be offering up, in sequence, a part of her story along with an audio reflection of her response to the particular fragment that we have featured. Karin lived through a very particular part of European history (WWII) and her work engages with very significant subject matter that is universally meaningful and individually personal. We hope you enjoy Karin’s exploration.

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Fragments of Inheritance

Fragment 1

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‘standing in the shadow of Hitler

born 1937

condemned 1939, just two years old

attempting redemption 1983

living for the evidence of remembrance 1995′

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She was born with a heavy inheritance. She felt her moon-baked icy heart wanting to melt the shock of recognition of deeds done between 1939 – 1945. That scar rested upon her. This bloody war weighed on her creating a violent hatred of war within her heart. This in turn nurtured a deep love of peace, and fueled her need to work for reconciliation between the two nations she most cherished, England and Germany.

Now, she lives in England.

It was a splendid, warm early spring morning when she looked around her sun-lit room, a milky way of memories rushing through her: her books standing upright as a witness of times gone by, like friends in certain hours of need; a still candle of remembrance burning; a piece of rock , insignificant to look at, but it is a tiny part of ‘The Berlin Wall’ coming down in 1989, a precious symbol of an irrepressible need for freedom. This forceful voice of resistance still echoed in her mind. ‘ Totalitarianism can only be defeated if many people unite and fight against it.’ The word-call still had meaning.

Much courage rushed through Europe and Germany on that day she never thought she would ever see. The 9th November 1989. Freedom had triumphed, ‘The Wall’ had fallen. The Berlin-Wall was a sight of joy. She witnessed the coming together of people who had been visibly forced apart for 28 years. These amazing days had an almost dream-like quality.

She suddenly believes in miracles! Leipzig, too, where she was born, had become an active instrument in the struggle for freedom. The ‘Monday Demonstrations’, which had began in September continue. The door of the ‘Nikolai Church’ long open to the people of Leipzig before the heated autumn days of 1989 had become the symbol for peaceful gathering of men and women. This House of God was: open for all After many years of oppression it was possible to say: we want free elections; we are the instruments of peace; we are standing here; down with the Stasi; we are the people; the ‘Wall’ must go. It was in Leipzig where history was turned up-side down. And it all happened peacefully. ‘I write and think as a woman against war, I write and think as a woman for peace’. The word-call still had meaning.

Yes, she remembered it all so well, these heady days. She was now able to return to the place where she was born without visas or other difficulties.

**

She is now sitting in a car moving forwards, being driven from a small town, Pottenstein in West-Germany, to Leipzig in the former East-Germany. The landscape near the industrial town Karl-Marx-Stadt, now Chemnitz again was grey, the fields with their products are covered by a faint, shadowy substance, which came from factories, where no concerns for the environment reigned. The smell of the ‘Trabi’, with its two-stroke engine hung in the air, but no Stasidogs were barking. She could not believe that this was real, but it was! There grew an awareness of time having stood still, arrested under a regime that thousands of people had fled from in the hope of finding a better life, like she had done. As a young girl she had left Leipzig illegally from East-Germany to West-Berlin, and later, moved on for England, off to Cambridge.

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Biography

I was born on the 4th of November 1937, just one day before Gun-powder Day! So, I celebrated my entrance with a BANG, yet far away from England then, in fact, in Leipzig, Germany. After the end of the Second World War, Leipzig in Saxony became part of East-Germany, which I left, illegally, in 1953. My family and I settled in West-Berlin, where I went to High-School, when finished there I left Berlin for Cambridge, England. I was a student of English for a while, took a BA Honours Degree in European Thought and Literature and English History at Anglia Polytechnic University, where I also took a MA in Women’s Studies with a Dissertation on German History. I became a teacher of the German Language,Literature and History during my working life. I have now retired from teaching and find myself writing, reading and enjoying life to the full.

As yet Karin does not have a website, but you can make contact with Karin via ArtiPeeps through the comment box on this post or contact form on the ‘What’s On’ Page.

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Karin will be returning with Fragment 2 of ‘Fragments of Inheritance on Thursday 12th December.

* FreeSpace offers any creative or group from any discipline  3 post slots on ArtiPeeps which can be taken in sequence or in a cluster for showcasing, self-expression or projects (encouraged). If you are interested in taking up a FreeSpace slot in our next run of work please do get in contact via the comment box or contact form on the What’s On Page  You’d be welcomed.

Conkers

10 Dec

Old man

The old man hauled on his worn, smudged overjacket, turned to his wife and said,

‘I wont be a minute Win ‘

He smiled inside as his hand touched the three conkers in his pocket.  He could feel their smoothness, and imagine their shine in his mind’s eye. He grinned, knowing what he was about to do.

 Vincent had four  sons,  one  of whom, the youngest,  had died in the  second world war (his mother’s favourite Vivian, known as Bunty). But he still had Edwin, John and Dougie,  he thought. He knew that and his heart warmed as he stepped into the cold morning air. He took a deep breath in and the ice-chill filled his lungs. Good clean air. He looked out over his large, ordered garden and worked out where he was going to plant  the smooth,  glossy autumn orbs. Vincent rolled the conkers around in his hand. Interlacing them between his fingers. It made him remember.

‘Right’, he said, ‘job to do- for me and my boys’.

He picked up his trowel from where  he had distractedly thrown it yesterday, and marched off to the first spot he had chosen (too near to the house, probably) but what did he care. He’d be long gone before this beauty reached maturity. He tittered and made a hole in the dark brown earth and pushed the chocolate-brown conker deep within the broken soil.

‘For you Dougie’ he whispered.

He repeated this ritual with the other two conkers,  quietly murmuring the names of his other two sons- ‘This is for you…Edwin…This is for you John….’

His sons so much more than their names, he thought, but their names would do for now. He turned back towards his house, and walked homeward towards his wife (who probably by now was baking a 100 weight of fruit buns) and smiled imagining the small green root emerging from the conkers and rooting, rooting deep just like his love for his sons (but he’d never tell them that…..)

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Conkers

That was my grandfather and I now live in the very house that he lived in, and look out each day on the very trees he planted for my father and uncles (now, sadly all dead). This story was told to me when I was a little girl. The history of the conkers. The reason why there are 3 hugely oversized, completely inappropriately chosen, trees in my back garden.

I can’t remember a time when I haven’t heard the story of the conkers being told. It informed my childhood and it still informs my adulthood for I’m writing about it now aren’t I?  So it runs deep.  And that’s what I want to address in this post. The importance of stories and the stories we tell ourselves and how they inform who we are and what we do.

I don’t know if I would have felt so strongly rooted in the house I live in had I not heard that story. If my grandmother had not sat on the edge of my bed just before I went to sleep  and told me the story of the conkers; and it’s interesting isn’t it because I’ve chosen to dramatise this scene for you;  I’ve gone back over this related, oral ‘truth’ and re-interpreted it for you in a way that probably; no,  not probably, does embellish the actual act itself. When we retell something that means something to us we use artistic licence because we want to bring the listener in. We want to make them part of our reality. and if it’s done orally then the effect is instantaneous. We hear, we feel, we take it in. If it’s via words on a page there’s an extra process of filtration we have to go through.

This story has shaped my life. Living here in this house I can’t escape from my history. This house is so full of stories related to me and my family how could I live anywhere else?  It’s in my genes. The house is part of my inheritance. 

And  now I’ll let you in and explain  how I got to be re-telling this story to you today; what inspired me to write about the conkers. One of my favourite podcasts is RadioLab a curious, ever imaginative podcast aimed at curious souls, and they always, aways produce intriguing pieces, and their latest was entitled ‘Inheritance’ (See  podcast link at the bottom of this post) , asking the question:

blueprintCAN YOU FIGHT THE STORIES IN YOUR LIFE? 

CAN YOU RE-WRITE YOUR BLUEPRINT? 

How does what you do get passed down and get retold through your children and the stories you tell? 

As  novelist Reynold Price states:

‘A need to tell and hear stories is essential to the species Homo sapiens – second in necessity apparently after nourishment and before love and shelter. Millions survive without love or home, almost none  in silence; the opposite of silence leads quickly to narrative, and the sound of story is the dominant sound of our lives’.

Stories are how we give our lives meaning. It’s how we shape our identity and as one blogger stated in his blog  (Identity and Belonging)  ‘Who I am is so much more important than what I do’. Stories are the tools that allow us to interpret what we are experiencing and to do so with individuality and with imagination. We might not be able to override our genetic make-up but we can certainly help ourselves along a bit by the retelling of our lives to our children, with the intention of helping them overcome the inadequacies  of the blueprint we have passed to them. We try and alter history to make up for it. All the stories told to our children so they can learn and move forward and be the best possible people they can be. To have what we didn’t have and do what we didn’t do. 

 

Infinite Worlds

Shekhar Kapur the director of the film Elizabeth says , ‘I tell a story therefore I exist. If I don’t. I don’t exist’ . He suggests, in the video at the bottom of this post, that stories are the vehicles through which we develop a connection between ourselves and the infinite world. It’s how we reach beyond ourselves and create mythologies just like my conkers and my grandfather. I’m not alone. I’m part of a story handed down over 80 years. I am part of history and that’s a comfort. 

 

Now, for another story. Are you sitting comfortably?  This is a very different tale.  Edgy , rooted in a more difficult time within the history of the holocaust. 

 

I had an uncle on my mother’s side, a lovely gentle man by all accounts, who was forced into the German army, as was the case for nearly every man at that time. The story goes, and so goes the story, that X was  given orders to shoot the concentration camp prisoners into the huge body pit dug specially for them. Day-in-day-out- human beings were shot and buried, shot and buried. My uncle was a peaceful man and was at a quandary as to what to do. So the story my grandmother told my mother, was that that Onkel X refused, he shot to the side of the prisoners, his bullets glancing off the muddy ground and not in to warm flesh. He went against his orders.  And then one day somebody then pointed a gun to the back of his neck and said:

 

‘If you don’t do this. It’s you. It’s your turn. ‘

This is how the story runs, according to my mother. Onkel X then mysteriously disappeared. He vanished. The family suspected he had been shot for going against federal orders. But nobody is 100% sure…..  What actually happened to Onkel X? 

And only recently my mother admitted how she wasn’t even sure of the whole story. Had it been made up in its entirety to defend a certain position towards war and what happened at the time? We tell stories to reinforce our beliefs too, don’t we?  We embellish to ram the point home?  Don’t we?  Shekhar Kapur says ‘A person without a story does not exist’ . He says the process of storytelling is a process of contradiction and that the ‘acceptance of contradiction is storytelling and not resolution’.

If that is the case my family and I have to accept that we’ll never really know what happened to Onkel X, that we, perhaps,  have ourselves shaped this story so that we can create the form of family with which we want to  associate.  The truth might be secondary to the storytelling, the perception we want to convey. It’s difficult to tell.  And also maybe I have to live with the fact that I never really experienced the warmth from my grandfather that he clearly felt for his sons when he planted those 3 conkers 80 years ago. But what I can say, what I can say with my hand on my heart, is that I’m glad these stories are in my life because they have made me what I am today; a sometime-storyteller trying to tell a story to you. And maybe it’s just the communication of that story that counts.

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*RADIOLAB: ‘INHERITANCE’:

 http://www.radiolab.org/2012/nov/19/

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* SHEKHAR KAPUR ‘WE ARE THE STORIES WE TELL OURSELVES’:

 

 

Do you have any similar family stories that you’d like to share? We’d be interested to hear them. 

ArtiPeep Signature 2

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ARTIPEEPS NEWS

  • NEW ! ‘FRENZY’S FLASH FEATURE’…. Your  fortnightly Thursday Photo/Poetry Combo with  GREG MACKIE.  Starting this Thursday 13th December. Let the Frenzy Commence!
  • ArtiPeeps will soon be launching full details of its 10 + poets collaborative poetry project called TRANSFORMATIONS. Details will be posted out this Wednesday (12th). If any poets who are not involved already would like to join us, please do let me know via the reply box on the post or via Twitter @ArtiPeep. Participation is open to anyone ! 
  • Watch Out for our guest blogger KATE GARRETT next Monday 17th December on her involvement with Sheffield Speak Easy and Performance Poetry. 
  • ArtiPeep is also about to completely revamp the finefocus page into a wondrous, dynamic arts page. watch this space. This will be launched in the new year. 
  • Oh yes, and there’s always our Xmas collaborative blog 3 poet-3 artist combination due out on the  Friday 21st December!

HAPPY DAYS !

 

Fragments of Inheritance: The Subject Behind My Object Series

1 Oct

For this Monday’s Blog we’re starting a new intermittent mini-series called The Subject Behind My Object (the name has gone through various permutations, which you’ll hear on the mini video below, apologies, if there’s a bit of a descrepency (!))

The idea for this  mini-series was inspired by the latest ArtiPeep Session we had on Wednesday where we looked at the relationship between subject-and-object. The ArtiPeeps were asked to bring  along two objects to the session: one that meant something to them in a meaningful way, and one that was pleasurable to them aesthetically. Our evening was spent talking through the objects and their meaning, and then we individually produced something creative from that engagement. This  engagement inspired this mini-series. So over the months  ahead we’re going to recurrently feature an object and the personal story and/or meaning behind it, for the subject. Initially we’ll feature the Peeps’ objects but if you would like to be part of this feature as well, let me know and we can gladly arrange this. Your involvement would be very much welcomed!

The first object we’re going to focus on is a meaningful one.

‘It is the function of creative man to perceive and to connect the seemingly unconnected. ‘ William Plomer

So,  here’s the OBJECT:

A piece of the Berlin Wall

Here’s the STORY behind the Object 

And here’s the SUBJECT  Behind the Object

A BIT ABOUT KARIN:

‘I was born on the 4th of November 1937, just one day before Gun-powder Day! So, I celebrated my entrance with a BANG, yet far away from England then, in fact, in Leipzig, Germany. After the end of the Second World War, Leipzig in Saxony became part of East-Germany, which I left, illegally, in 1953. My family and I settled in West-Berlin, where I went to High-School, when finished there I left Berlin for Cambridge, England. I was a student of English for a while, took a BA Degree in European Thought and Literature and English History at Anglia Polytechnic University, where I also took a MA in Women’s Studies with a Dissertation on German History. I became a teacher of the German Language,Literature and History during my working life. I have now retired from teaching and find myself writing, reading and enjoying life to the full’.

Aftermath by Sigfried Sassoon
(March 1919)

Have you forgotten yet? …
For the world’s events have rumbled on since those gagged days,
Like traffic checked while at the crossing of city-ways:
And the haunted gap in your mind has filled with thoughts that flow
Like clouds in the lit heaven of life; and you’re a man reprieved to go,
Taking your peaceful share of Time, with joy to spare.
But the past is just the same – and War’s a bloody game …
Have you forgotten yet? …
Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you’ll never forget.

Do you remember the dark months you held the sector at Mametz –
The nights you watched and wired and dug and piled sandbags on parapets?
Do you remember the rats; and the stench
of corpses rotting in front of the front-line trench –
And dawn coming, dirty-white, and chill with a hopeless rain?
Do you ever stop and ask, “Is it all going to happen again?”

Do you remember the hour of din before the attack –
And the anger, the blind compassion that seized and shook you
As you peered at the doomed and haggard faces of your men?
Do you remember the stretcher-cases lurching back
With dying eyes and lolling heads – those ashen-grey
Masks of the lads who once were keen and kind and gay?

Have you forgotten yet? …
Look up, and swear by the green of the spring that you’ll never forget.

Hope you found this stimulating. Please feel free to comment.

All the very best!

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