Two Poems for Remembrance Sunday

Two poems for Remembrance Day:
* The Poppy
This was written for the Chaplaincy at HMP Highpoint North, probably in late 2015. A deliberate one-pager that was posted on the wall of the chapel, distributed and read aloud to various denominations and even sent to the British Legion – or so I was told.
* One Day of Peace
I had intended to translate, imitate or reflect in some way the great song by French poet Georges Brassens – ‘La Guerre de 14-18’. But, however I looked at it and worked on it, I felt that if I were to honestly impart his ideas in English, it would upset too many people. His style is aggressively anti-war, and anti-nation state, in a way that would not lead to constructive discussion in the UK, and , unless you look at some of his other works, such as ‘Mourir Pour les Idées’, it is difficult to understand what he is trying to say. To be fair, there are many French speakers that do not understand Georges Brassens either and I need to hear and read them a few times before I get the meaning. So I have written ‘One Day of Peace’ just to remind us all that there is never anything glorious about war and that, if we call everyone in the armed forces a hero, then we are reducing the value of that expression for those that truly deserve it.

1. The Poppy

Look on the poppy, red and black

Remembrance of those that never came back

From far-flung fields in Flanders and France

And the wounded and weary, chosen by Chance


The red reminds us of the blood that spills

In foreign valleys and on distant hills

Whenever men are called to fight

For King or country, wrong or right


The black reminds us of the mud

On which the shells and rockets thud

And the grey and gruesome graves that hold

The bodies of those too brave or bold


The petals around the centre spread

Remind us of leaders and the led

Together trained, by brotherhood bound

Dispersed, a target for a sniper’s round


Think of those men that for us give

Their lives, so young, that we might live

In prosperous peace within these shores

Far from the fear of foreign wars


2. One Day of Peace

Let there be one day in every year

When we choose to deny the glory of war

When we denounce the hatred, the horror the fear

That warmongers will always choose to ignore

When we admit that true heroes are rare

That skivers who survive show some sanity

When we praise the thoughtful, the kind and fair

And let modesty be master of victors’ vanity


This day no uniformed soldier will stand or march

We’ll salute no monarch by artillery gun

No trumpet triumph through ancient arch

Nor watchmen wilting in wintery sun

We’ll quietly reflect on mothers that suffer

When one nation decides that another should die

For their struggle for survival is so much tougher

Than drill sergeants forcing raw recruits to cry


On this day we’ll admire the willing but weak

The nameless, the homeless, dispossessed or frail

Those souls who for simple subsistence seek

Even outcasts dwelling beyond the pale

Unable or unwilling to join any army

The ones some refer to as feeble-minded

The maimed, lamed and blamed, the so-called barmy

Bumblers, maybe, by brilliance blinded


Those for whom poems will never be read

Who may see no value in vainglorious verse

Far flung, the few that will honour them dead

But praise be to them, for better or worse

Unto those that lack any achievement

Without pompous, pathetic, puritanical pride

Without joy in some unknown soldier’s bereavement

Praise be to the hedonist, just along for the ride


Yes this will be the greatest of days

No celebrities will monopolise the television

No general officer earning obsequious praise

No debate about military indecision

No noise of raucous royal regalia

Peace will be declared despite parliamentary pollution

Absent all military paraphernalia

On this one day, peace will be seen as the only solution