Poetic reflections

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 pamjob@tiscali.co.uk or Judith Wolton on johnjudith.wolton@btinternet.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.

Martin Newell

Landgirl’s Song

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.

Knot-grass, harebells,

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.

Anne Boileau

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.

Antony Johae


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.

Karen Dennison

The Parcel

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.

Pam Job

Wood at Ors

Leaves in the autumn wood

glow yellow-gold,

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

on gold.

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.

Judith Wolton

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