2009 Poetry Theme Challenges

#20 Remembrance

At 11 am on 11 November 1918 the guns of the Western Front fell silent after more than four years continuous warfare. The First Two Minute Silence in London (11th November 1919) as reported in the Manchester Guardian, 12th November 1919.

'The first stroke of eleven produced a magical effect.The tram cars glided into stillness, motors ceased to cough and fume, and stopped dead, and the mighty-limbed dray horses hunched back upon their loads and stopped also, seeming to do it of their own volition.'

The first world war though a terrible thing and a stain on Mankind's history, but it gave us a wonderful legacy of poetry from the poets who have become known as the War Poets such as John McCrae, Laurence Binyon, Hedd Wyn and Wilfred Owen to name a few.

The challenge is to write poems that remember, not necessarily the war or the dead, but anything poignent or moving, happy or sad. The current form challenge, the villanelle, is a particularly effective vehicle for this type of writing.

For the Fallen

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill: Death August and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted:
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the starts that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end they remain.

September 1914
Laurence Binyon (1869-1943)


Happy quilling


Challenge Replies

Maryse Achong

And We Remember
We Can't Forget

Divena Collins

Morning Glory
Past and Present
War Hero's Cry

Maggie Cusick

All Wars

Jem Farmer

Butterfly of Purity
Raindrops to the Sea
Tr of Rhyfel (War) by Hedd Wyn

Ryter Roethicle

I Remember
Return to Earth
Victims Roll

John Willowdown

The Dying Soldier

Leny Roovers


Maryse Achong

And We Remember

No sweet words can make up for the loss of loved ones,
No honour compensate for that sheer grief,
No lowered flags can replace those that have been killed,
No ceremony can offer relief.

And though dying is a part of life's great circle,
Just as the dawn will follow every night,
The carnage that we witness in the world today ,
Is proof that we have still not got it right.


We Can't Forget

When it seems that our plates become too full
When things begin to weigh us down, and scare
Us; with demands to meet that tug and pull
At us every which way, it's time for prayer.
However when our cups o'erflow the brim
And life is wonderful, everything right
Then also we ought to remember Him,
And thank Him for leading us to the light...
Without Him ours would be a sorry plight.

back to list

Divena Collins

Morning Glory

Softly I trod on the dew kissed ground
on a beautiful sunlit morning,
I went for a stroll in the field beyond
just as the day was dawning.

There in a ditch in the hollow
amidst grass with long tough blades,
some yellow cowslips intertwine
and a sweetbriar branch cascades.

The earth ploughed and left to fallow
for planting time next season,
but poppies grew where seeds did blow
mother nature had her reason.

Cowslips and sweet briar jewels
more precious than any I know,
A gift for us that are living
to accept and enjoy them so.

Poppies are there to remember
the men that fought in the war,
who perished for our freedom
pain and heartache that they bore.

I stopped for a moment to think
how lucky we are to be free,
and to enjoy the delights of nature
that`s surrounding you and me .


Past and Present

In the not so distance past
When a womans work was harder,
Her clothes were sewn to last,
Home made produce in the larder.

The laundry scrubbed so clean
On a washing board with soap,
The whites were the whitest seen,
Pegged out on a line made of rope.

Wax polishing of the parlour floor
And the furniture inside,
White washing the step by the door
With elbow grease and pride.

The mats outside were hastily taken
For dust to be beaten away,
The tablecloth vigorously shaken
With the crumbs of yesterday

'Three cheers'for the modern appliance
'Farewell 'to the kitchen sink,
'Hoorah' for the age of science
We`ve now time to sit down and think.


War Hero's Cry

An old man huddled down
Covered with a plastic sack,
In a shop doorway, he settled
With nothing left to go back.

His memory gone, on his own,
Not a soul, wanted to know,
Took his bags,and hit the road,
There was nowhere else to go .

Lost in a maze, no way out,
No family to speak of left,
Not a thing to call his own
Friendless, rejected, bereft.

Aged now, but once when young,
A soldier who fought in the war,
Medals lost, along with his pride,
Was this, what his hardship was for.

Did his best, for his country
A volunteer who dared,
Now left with a shortened leg,
In a World, that never cared.

How may more have relented,
In this heartless,thoughtless, city
We are human (kind) as they say,
So where, Oh where, is the pity.

back to list

Maggie Cusick

All Wars

The night was clear, windless
An unripe moon glowed dimly,
in uncomfortable silence we strolled.
What could be said?

Pausing he took me in his arms,
the sight of unshed tears
quickened sorrow in my soul,
desperately shying away
from unwanted words
thinking only of my deepest longings?

He must go to foreign shores
where life or death beckoned
where the enemy is the little boy
begging for chocolate
or the pram pushing mother

Walk the bloodied sands of damnation
where life is just an illusion.
Few returned from this valley
of broken hearts
War has it's own boundaries



Shattered the life I lived before
sunlight oh so far away
dreams darkening day by day
all young fight a dreadful war
few return as they were of yore
so to my God I humbly pray
shattered the life

Bugle no longer makes a sound
sick and maimed long carried home
flowers now where soldiers did roam
protecting them from muddy ground
shattered the life

back to list

Jem Farmer


He lowers his hat as she wipes her tears,
when a thoughtful hush falls, as battles cease
and our silence reflects over the years.

He comes home battered and torn by his fears
in nightmarish dreams that will never decrease
he lowers his hat as she wipes her tears.

Weary soldiers greeted by grateful cheers,
from the pits of war, a brief release
and our silence reflects over the years.

As they battled on those hellish frontiers,
and life was lost at a bullet's caprice,
he lowers his hat as she wipes her tears,

From private soldiers to the brigadiers,
our sovereignty became their golden fleece
and our silence reflects over the years.

The words of remembrance ring in our ears
in heartfelt hopes and prayers for blesséd peace
he lowers his hat as she wipes her tears,
and our silence reflects over the years.


Butterfly of Purity

The briefest time when you were near,
a single glance lifted my fear.
A butterfly of purity,
bringing love and surety.
Carbon copies of emotion
pooled in our sweet love's devotion.
Budding senses yearning to feel
before my world turned to cold steel.
For butterfly wings are fragile
and love isn't always docile.
You, unsurpassed beauty, faded
so my cold heart remains jaded,
until once more you hold my hand,
lead me to the ethereal land.


Raindrops to the Sea

I wish that you could see it too,
how I long to be loved by you.
No longer can my heart be free,
I'm lost as raindrops to the sea.
Each morning seems empty and cruel
like a ring that's mislaid its jewel.
The only abatement, to work,
before my heart goes quite berserk.
But nights are filled with love's extremes
as once again you fill my dreams.
Senses gyrate to meet your gaze,
if only there could be no days.
I figured this love out last night,
as long as I sleep it's all right.


Rhyfel by Hedd Wyn

Gwae fi fy myw mewn oes mor ddreng,
A Duw ar drai ar orwel pell;
O'i ôl mae dyn, yn deyrn a gwreng,
Yn codi ei awdurdod hell.

Pan deimlodd fyned ymaith Dduw
Cyfododd gledd i ladd ei frawd;
Mae swn yr ymladd ar ein clyw,
A'i gysgod ar fythynnod tlawd.

Mae'r hen delynau genid gynt
Ynghrog ar gangau'r helyg draw,
A gwaedd y bechgyn lond y gwynt,
A'u gwaed yn gymysg efo'r glaw.

War; trans by Jem Farmer

Alas in these years of meanspirit,
as Mankind makes his own domain,
with office that carries much pain,
as the light fades shall darkness sit.

As fast as light is excluded here
the arms of war erupt in fire,
bloody feuds, a funeral pyre,
the blood of an innocent tear.

Heavenly harps can't soothe this bane,
fall silent on willowy bough,
battle cries on the wind and now
their blood cascades eternal rain.

back to list

Ryter Roethical

I remember

I raise my voice
Whilst shouting into the night

Silences follow...
Then listening as my voice echoes
There is no answer
Except self mockery.

As a single tear falls
A voice carries to me
"Though physically I am no more,
Spiritually forever I shall be,
As close to you as ever
As long as you remember me."

I kiss a rose
Then I lay it on you...
"I love you"
My only parting words
As I slowly walk away

A second tear falls...
A third tear soon follows.

And then mine.


Return To Earth

Do you know what a bullet hitting flesh sounds like?
It's a slapping you hear,
Like hitting a lump of meat with a mallet.
If it kills you, you do not hear it,
You feel nothing as you fall to the ground.
Lying here listening to the sounds of action
As it moves away
And very soon the birds start their roll call.
I can see them far better now,
Better than I ever could before
And can move as well,
Not far yet, I still feel a little weary. Must catch my breath, please be patient.
Suddenly, looking down
I can see myself lying there.
Comes as a bit of a shock really.

The night comes and with it the cold.
But I don't feel it any more,
It's almost as if I'm dreaming.
I can see the night creatures coming out, '
They come over and start sniffing me.
None are flesh eaters,
They soon lose interest and move on.
The insects of course are still around.
No longer do I need to swat away that irritating sound.
I can feel some of them now,
Some sort of residual memory I suppose.

The dawn breaks and with it the change of animals.
The ants of course found me first
And have been keeping me company all the time,
They never sleep and work incessantly,
I can feel them climbing over my face.
Crawling into eyes, my ears, my nose, my mouth.
With their other comrades who are laying their eggs.
They create their information path for their source of food.
I can feel the plaque on my teeth being eaten,
and the buzz in my ears as their teeth eat away at my wax.

Then I see it,
A solitary crow,
And hear its harsh cawing
Sending its raucous message to its family.
I can almost feel the sharp piercing stab of its beak
Seeking out a something tasty,
Holding my eye in its beak
Just like a bistro special
And hear the beat of its wings
Flying off with its trophy
I can almost feel the nips from little creatures
Gorging themselves on this welcome banquet

My body is starting to swell
The heat from the sun is expanding the gasses.
I can almost feel myself cracking
As the sun begins to dry out my flesh.
The creatures come and go, less and less
Nothing even for the ants is left.
Finally I have found peace.

I feel the grass now,
Slowly, patiently covering me,
Hiding me.
My bones becoming brittle,
The marrow fertilising my resting place.
I become one with the soil.

Once again I have returned to the earth.


Victims Roll

Once we were lovers, now that love has gone
Replaced by nothing, just leaving a black hole
Why can't you come back so we can carry on?

I always knew that I was your only one
We grew to believe we shared just one soul
Once we were lovers, now that love has gone.

Now all those dreams I must forever abandon
This one evil act has taken us out of control
Why can't you come back so we can carry on?

This ungodly act was by one of Satan's spawn
And just like a criminal, my heart he stole.
Once we were lovers, now that love has gone.

There will be no jail, and Heaven's no home
And again Hell will take in a fellow ***hole
Why can't you come back so we can carry on?

This is no heroic war, it's where cowards fawn
Adding women and kids to their victims roll.
Once we were lovers, now that love has gone
Why can't you come back so we can carry on?



Past experience tells me I should forget
Yet there are things we should remember
But not the times of blood, tears and sweat.

And mans stupidity and greed lingers yet
But this is all laid aside each November
Past experience tells me I should forget

That I was not there, I do not regret
And yet am proud to be called digger
But not the times of blood, tears and sweat.

There are memories of a shared cigarette
Death came with the third burning ember
Past experience tells me I should forget

Every decade world leaders refuse to commit
Whilst wall street remains the moneygrubber
But not the times of blood, tears and sweat.

For the lessons learned we are in their debt
The guilty and the greedy mentally slumber.
Past experience tells me I should forget
But not the times of blood, tears and sweat.

back to list

John Willowdown

The Dying Soldier

His comrades have propped the dying soldiers body against an outcrop of rock.
At least, they think, he will die upright, facing the bleak and body-strewn dawn
with its slow moving pillars of dust
and scavenging birds of splashed and clotted ink.
At least, they think, he will fight his last battle like a man and gaze at Death full in the face.
But the dying soldier has already fought his last battle and lost.
He cannot raise his eyes or even remember the Sun
- his whole field of vision is a thick swathhe of crimson pain blinding his broken eyes and brain,
- pouring like a raging river from his crackked skull,
- filling his throat and lungs with a risingg tide of senseless, insatiable blood.
He has no friends or enemies, no loyalties or memories,
no final thoughts of loved ones,
no hopes or dreams or regrets,
only the terrible vice of crushing pain flooding every pore of his being,
drowning every last vestige of identity and self.
In the wasteland of dim residual images where consciousness remains
he has crossed the final bridge that separates
him from the worlds of the living.
A shell passes overhead and explodes on the rutted earth behind him but he does not hear it.
His head falls to his chest; he flops into the filth and mud, but his senses tell him nothing.
Angry machines buzz like giant bees in his brain,
men tread carelessly over his body, squeezing the last breaths out of him,
but he does not feel their steel-shod boots at all.
The red ocean has claimed him completely and he sinks like a nondescript stone
to its deep and lightless depths.
His war is finally and irrevocably over.

back to list

Leny Roovers


Within my heart there is a special place;
it's filled with light and memories of you,
though we were never meant to win the race.
I still can hear your voice and see your face,
although we've both accepted that we're through;
within my heart, there is that special place.

I'll never be successful to erase
the treasured joy and laughter we accrued,
though we were never meant to win the race.

Some days, I know our thoughts still interlace
as with a sudden turn of mind the past sweeps through-
within my heart, there is a special place.

The years we shared, have left a lingering trace-
soft images of love, dressed in pale hues;
though we were never meant to win the race.

White thought-ships float across sky's wide blue space
as silently I whisper my adieus.
Within my heart there is a special place,
yet we were never meant to win the race.

back to list

Any Comments or Suggestions, please email me

The Poets Garret
2009 Poetry Form Challenge
2009 Poetry Theme Challenge
Tir Na nOg Poetry Community