In Wounded Fields (2)

This is the second of the five poems plus prologue and epilogue in my 1996 'In Wounded Fields' compendium. (See yesterday blog) Remember that all the words in italics belong to the named poet and are extracted from his poetic works; the rest is just my personal commentary. Reading it again I find something disturbingly familiar in the questions asked by Coulson ... questions to which there really seem to be no answers even now other than the ones I gave and give again here in this imagined conversation.



To: Leslie Coulson July 1889 - October 1916


“Who spake the Law that men should die in meadows?”
You ask and I reply, ‘Man spake that Law,’
(Though in regards to other than himself;)
And in pursuance since the dawn of human
Kind has killed and died in meadows, towns
Upon the seas and hills, now in the air
And after questioned why, and was it fair.
Why? nobody knows and fair? Who is to care?

“Who spake the word that blood should splash in lanes?”
You ask and I reply, ‘You spake that word,
You, Sergeant, for by just being there -
Proud member of the London Regiment
Retreating last from lost Gallipoli
- With all those men, some khaki some in grey
Who’ll fight until one colour wins the day
‘Till thick in lanes the dead, the dying lay.

“Who gave it forth that gardens should be boneyards?”
You ask and I say it was ever thus,
Beneath the beauty always lie the bones
That nourish it, upon which it must feed
As feeds nobility in war upon the lost,
The crying of the dead, the awful dying:
You who vainly fought, near Albert lying,
Your bones now ‘neath the nodding flowers, sighing.

“Who spread the hills with flesh and blood and brains?”
You ask and know the answer: it is you
Who trained your smoking gun upon the foe,
Who covered hills with screaming shot and shell
To deaden all that runs or flies or grows.
For more than this ask your creator God,
Your fingers stiffly clawed into the sod,
‘Till agony is spent with all your blood.

‘All the blood that war has ever strewn is
But a passing stain,’
you wrote... before the start...

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