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Tuesday 13 November 2012


Verdun, an ancient fortress town strategically placed on the road to Paris. It has a long history of siege and conflict. During W.W.II it became a symbol of French resistance when it survived a long and terrible assault from vastly superior german troops. The painting by Felix Vallotton was contributed as this week's prompt by Magpie Tales

Sharp. Angular. The forms
man brings to bear. How
apt! Snapped shut or open.
Scissor-wise. Knives 
in pincer movements cut.
Shred. softer forms
that Nature spread
in kinder days.
Man's browns
have muddied
purer greens. Where pastures were
strange landscapes have replaced
their peace with heave
and blast of earth.

I say: if ever this great onslaught ends
(somewhere beyond the death of friends
I do not doubt),
then shall the landscape
fall into a silence, speak
the death of speech,
the death of sapiens. Only
the homo in us will survive.

I dare to say of this: if ever it should end --
the stuttering machine gun madness;
exploding earth and cries of pain;
then shall we hear:
no birdsong;  whispers
from no furry creatures
in the non-existent undergrowth;
no rustling of dead leaves.
No sounds beyond the sighings of 
the dead in search of graves.

If it had eyes, this landscape 
would lie silent, staring into space,
a dumb and broken thing. See now:
beyond the small hill's brow
shapes piled that might be corpses --
or fallen trees... or simply shadows
thrown by the light of hell.

I say again: if ever this great onslaught ends
there will be nothing left for light to show --
except the most impenetrable darkness
man has ever seen.


Brian Miller said...

some really great lines dave....speak
the death of speech,
the death of sapiens....is where you first caught me....though i do like the angular play against the antural in the beginning too...if only it ever stop....i hear that...smiles.

Berowne said...

Powerful writing; quite moving...

Mary said...

"Man's browns have muddied purer greens." --- So true, Dave.

I think in this poem you are giving voice to a town that had a difficult role, and what darkness it has indeed seen.

Laurie Kolp said...

This is great, Dave... love the internal rhyming...

Leovi said...

Excellent poem. War is undoubtedly the worst side of humanity.

Helen said...

Your voice rings out loud .. clear .. we need to listen. This is one of my favorite 'Dave poems' ever!!!

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

Your poem could be read in a lesson on war writing and in particular war poetry.

Susan Anderson said...

Oh, I got caught up in this one...

Well done.


Elephant's Child said...

War has no winners, as you have so clearly stated here. Such a powerful poem. Thank you.

hyperCRYPTICal said...

Chilling stuff Dave, chilling stuff.

May the great onslaught end someday...

Anna :o]

Silent Otto said...

your words arre stunning, Dave , you have cut to the metaphysical heart of warfare. ww1 was the first display of overwhelming technology, used destructively, ww2 brought the concept of total war. ww3 has been underway since the end of the cold war, a cold, machine like state of constant warfare , the conclusion of which shall dtermine , as you say , wether we get to keep the SAPIEN . OUR souls are on the line this time. cheers mate .

Ygraine said...

"there will be nothing left for light to show - except the most impenetrable darkness man has ever seen."
This is probably the most powerful line I have ever read.
It provokes a feeling of horror at the capability of man to bring about the destruction of all life - even of the planet itself.
Disturbing, yet profoundly moving.
I will remember these words forever.

Steve King said...

This poem is fitting memorial to the the Armistice and the horror that was Verdun. There are many powerful images and stanzas, but the last two are specially effective, with a kind of grim beauty to them that stays with the reader. Very fine poem.

Dave King said...

Many thanks for so many kind observations. They do mean a great deal.

Much thanks.

Yes, Verdun suffered greatly, but it seems not to have had the recognition of some battle grounds.

Thanks. Much appreciated.

Yes, by a long way, I think.

Good of you to say this. I shall certainly take it to heart. Thanks.

A mighty fine compliment indeed. Grateful thanks for saying so.

Thanks Sue. Very kind.

The Elephants Child
this is certainly true. Thank you for your thoughts -- and the much valued compliment.

Tess Kincaid said...

Beautiful, poignant write, Dave...very much in the style of Edward Thomas...

Carrie Van Horn said...

War is hell that is fur sure.....a powerful write Dave!