PUBLISHED: 10:59 29 July 2014 | UPDATED: 10:59 29 July 2014
So too have the doves gone is an anthology of poems which reflect on the general theme of conflict, released as part of World War I commemorations. The poets are drawn mainly from Essex and the surrounding area with 20 poets from Essex contributing to the book including Martin Newell. The poems consider many aspects of conflict and its creation was inspired by the Wilfred Owen Memorial at Ors, in Northern France.
This memorial, by British sculptor Simon Patterson, is designed around Le Maison Forestiere where Wilfred Owen spent the last night of this life. It is intended to commemorate Wilfred Owen and the men who died with him, as well as celebrating poetry itself. This memorial illustrates the cover of the book. You can find out more about the book from Pam Job on firstname.lastname@example.org or Judith Wolton on email@example.com
For homefires, lions and roses
When the sky was overcast
And the sinew left of England
Turned its back upon the past
And the guns fell quiet at last
For one bird singing sweetly
From fields far beyond
When winter coughed discreetly
In the forest of Rethondes
And black rain swelled the pond
For horseflesh, lead and leather
And the broken-shafted cart
For friends who fell together
And the farmer losing heart
When ploughing couldn’t start
For the spectral rails stretching
To the future’s gaping yawn
A patient’s shaky sketching
And a family left forlorn
For talent never born
For sterling girls and mothers
On clifflands seen from France
For promises to others
When ordered to advance
For the lack of song and dance
For hamlet, town and village
Where lads came back alone
War’s ullage and war’s spillage
In native blood and bone
Immortalised in stone.
for Dorothea Boggis Rolfe
I press my head into her flank.
She chomps and slobbers on cow-cake.
Milk-jets hiss and froth
into the pail.
Three days we had for our honeymoon.
On Tuesday the moon was full and we
were lifted on its arc,
its tidal pull.
Wednesday, breakfast. Rain in staves.
Too shy to meet the other’s eye,
our fingers touch by the tea cosy,
sweet peas in a jar.
On Thursday the sun broke through,
drawing steam from potato fields.
Hand in hand we strolled downstream
from Wormingford to Wissington
and lay in the graveyard by the church
where an ancient painted dragon lurks.
clumsy bumble bees.
It’s dawn — the moon is full again.
The ache of his not being here. I’ve stripped
the cow, she saunters off. Blue silk
riffles the cooler’s ribs.
First the clink of empty churns
then a rumble within my breast.
Forty bombers thundering east,
heavy with their deadly load.
Brave boys those, so far from home!
But where is he? Tunisia, France?
As I shade my eyes and watch them go,
his child quickens for the very first time.
Mosque in Kabul 2002
They feed the birds with crumbs from their tables
or grain from late-summer lands
gleaned before the plough sets in
— women whose eyes cannot reveal their sympathies
smoking soldiers lounging with their guns
children, newly walking, ecstatic at mosque doves
who coo before the call to prayer
in the yard before the building.
Thus the birds multiply as at hajj
when pilgrims gather at the holy stone
to touch the dextrous hand of God
so numerous as to form a universe
circling with infinitude.
But the Taliban have come to stop the waste:
They’ll not let deprivation last
when there’s food for base birds.
They’ll feed the crumbs to those in unsafe shelters,
spare grain to wasting livestock.
They’ll not let pigeons spot the Holy Mosque,
pests soiling the celestial.
Now no one comes with offerings.
So too have the doves gone — without nourishment.
I have stood in overgrown queues for bread.
I have waited in snow and ice and rain.
I have prayed for the dying and the dead.
I have ached for a son’s return in vain.
I have looked into the lifeless eyes
of the living, seen the strong insane.
I have heard – believed – too many lies.
A silence weaves each day and night,
ravels and knots our collective cries.
It begins with hunger, a bloodless fight,
the courage of mothers, daughters, wives,
the city domes and their dying light.
I have lost —have lived — too many lives.
Mother, open the parcel,
the brown paper’s greasy,
it’s creased at the corners,
untie the string.
Your fingers are shaking,
out tumbles the crumple
of khaki, or feldgrau,
rough-textured and damp.
It lies in your hands with a sigh
and you smother your face
in the fog of its cloth and gag
on the acid of gas
which furs up your tongue
but you hang onto the belt,
its cracked polished leather
dishonoured with mud
and then find the buckle,
still brassy but bent,
it shines out of this mess
that is all we have left.
And look how the uniform clings
as you hold it against you
and then when you drop it,
it folds up like death.
Wood at Ors
Leaves in the autumn wood
translucent; sun strokes
their spines reveals
their veins, warms
them before death.
They hang perilously,
swing like dog-tags,
shiver in the breeze.
There are other shadows here.
Shapes drift like smoke
among trees, dark figures
step from charred trunks,
their blackness harsh
A boot, an arm, a helmet –
sway and fade at vision’s edge.
They were here once, beside
the spring’s steel gleam –
breathing for one more night.