Saturday, 6 February 2010

#FridayFlash Tommyrot.

Bit late (but maybe it's still just about Friday on the West cost of the US!)Busy week. Not sure if this one works at all. Think it might be a bit too unsubtle, but I've really run out of time!.

In honour of the late Harry Patch and Lance-Corporal Joe Glenton

I had it all today. The pipers piping. The military salute. The flag draped over the coffin.

Funny how they honour us now. Back then, it seemed we were nothing much. Pigs in the muck. Sitting around waiting for orders. I thought war would be glorious. I'd fight for a righteous cause. Save Family, King and Country. Come home a hero.

What I got was infected feet, headlice, the stench of latrines. Forays across grey mire, feet clogging with the mud. Advancing an inch, retreating six. Saving those you could, and leaving the dead to their swampy graves. Sticking the enemy in the guts, never looking at their faces. Wondering why this stretch of bog was quite so important.

Sometimes I wished someone would just say. STOP. Someone, anyone. Perhaps that should have been me.

I never did.

I had it all today. The military salute, the piper, piping, the flag spread over the coffin.

It’s hard seeing your wife mourn you. Your kids. Trying to make sense of why you’ve gone. Words like “sacrifice” seem strange from where I’m standing. I was proud once, of my uniform. I thought it would bring me glory. I’d face death for a righteous cause. I’d return a hero.

The truth was, we were never welcome there. We hid behind high walls, making occasional forays into an arid land. Brown fields shimmering with heat. Searching for the enemy with no time to separate innocence from guilt. Firing at them, never looking at their faces. Leaving the bodies to rot and stink in the midday sun. Sometimes it was hard to see quite why it was so important.

Sometimes I wished someone would stay STOP.  Someone, anyone. Perhaps, that should have been me.

I never did.


David Masters said...

Unsubtle works for me. I particularly enjoyed: "Back then, it seemed we were nothing much. Pigs in the muck." This contrasts well with the pomp of the military funeral.

I wonder if there are some soldiers who, after being killed in combat, would continue to believe in war.

hubby said...

hair. neck. stand.

Virginia Moffatt said...

Thanks David, and thanks dear hubby, glad it made you react like this...

Interesting point David, I'm sure there are people who do die believing it to be the right thing. There are certainly a lot left behind who appear to think it was worth it.

Marisa Birns said...

Oh one does not need subtle here. It's perfect. Many great sentences here.

One example: "Searching for the enemy with no time to separate innocence from guilt. Firing at them, never looking at their faces."


Anonymous said...

I loved this piece, very stirring. From the beginning I was gripped. Subtlety is not always required, at least in my opinion.

I too posted late, I apparently didn't save or accidentally deleted mine so I had to rewrite it today. So, I understand trying to write on a deadline.

Lou said...

Oh goodness, this is powerful. Flash or prose poem, prose poem or flash? Whatever, you capture so much with so few words. Especially the futilty, and the chains that keep us from going back. So sad. Thank you for writing this.

Cathy Olliffe said...

Definitely better late than never!
Just finished watching The Hurt Locker so your story was particularly interesting to me.

Linda said...

Great imagery. The contrast between military honors and the muck of the field excellent. But why are parts repeated? I'm probably dense (tired after shovling snow for hours). Peace, Linda

mazzz in Leeds said...

As David and Marisa said - unsubtle is just fine.

Shivers down the old spine, here.
"Never looking at their faces" was very powerful.

CJ Hodges MacFarlane said...

I think it's quite good. Gets across some good, solid thoughts but doesn't get overly dramatic.

Skycycler said...

The futility of it all really comes home, unlike our poor Tommy. Well done - it was not glorious at all was it? It was just a bloody fight in stinking filth. Good honest work.

Virginia Moffatt said...

Thanks Marisa, Katirra, Cathy, Mazz, CJ, Skycycler for your kind comments & not minding me be being quite so overt.

Prose poem, Lou? Hmm. I intended it as prose, but maybe... I will probably post an intentional prose poem I wrote sometime ago & you can decide if both are poetry or just one!

Linda - I may have been too obscure again. The imagery is repeated because there are two voices, one from WW1 and one from now. I am constantly struck by the public mourning we have for soldiers at present, without much thought (it seems to me) about the context and the civilians who die.The other prompt was the re-burying of some WW1 soldiers from a mass grave last week, which seemed to me to be the same old, same old... I tried to make it clear by the fonts! (Sorry about the snow shovelling had a bit too much of that here in Jan)

Deb said...

I feel like you have addressed two generations here -- first Vietnam, then Iraq. This is quite an evocative piece.