Them Forgotten Seasons Remembered

Lightly wounded Scottish soldiers being brought to a dressing station by mule in Salonika, 1918. © IWM (Q31798)
Al Rodger Fri, 23/05/2014 - 12:56

The sun shone as bright as any summer's day
that day that we signed up to fight the Kaiser.
Cheers and waves and hats thrown in the air
The throng couldn't hear
didn't care what was said
by the old fat red-faced major
Pushing through
Tom and me
sparing to be first
Some they sent away sent home
too young too short flat feet
But me and Tommy both
they said we'd be all right
just you wait until the day when we are ready for the fight
That'll be the day to remember.

The wind blew as fresh as any autumn's day
that day we marched away to fight the Kaiser.
Spit and polish
khaki-clad
shouldered arms
no kit
Endless ranks
our army boots
crash down
on cobbled street
Drumming time
for rousing
Tipperary
beating time
For silent weary flags
still flourished by the crowd
Then our eagerness frustrated
heels kicking standing waiting
for them clogged-up sloping gangways up on board
just more waiting for that day when we'll meet them German hordes
'Cause that will be the day to remember.

The snow fell as soft as any winter's day
that day we faced the soldiers of the Kaiser.
Fallen snowflakes shift
from caps and epaulettes
With awkward
handshake
how-do-you-do
formality
Shiver slap our hands
in the cold and laugh with Fritz
as a football bounced-sky-high
and again a fair old thwack
Wishing merry Christmas
when at last they called us back
A football match we called it
makes a pretty tidy tale
while we're waiting for that day when we begin this fight for real
'Cause that will be the day to remember.

The rain fell as wet as any springtime day
that day we charged the trenches of the Kaiser.
After restless endless night
and the final falling shells
Up we went
through the smoke
and the wire
Skirting rain-filled holes
wet feet slipping in the mire
Through their bombed-out silent lines
'til them shells began again
Just a few
But when they'd stopped they 'ad done for me and Tom.

'Cause it only takes the one to send you off to kingdom come
so just you wait until the day when all them blessed shells is done.

That will be the day
to remember.

No mules here but some may espy those 'Lions led by donkeys.' I am usually writing stories rather than poems and when they are set in war they will often attack the stereotypical views of warfare, the seemingly inescapable clichés which provide us with a rather poor understanding of such events, particularly at the human level.

This poem was written as a Writers' Circle poetry exercise. Although not that long ago, I have forgotten the required theme, if there ever was one. I do remember it had a forty-line limit, lines now split up to assist the reading. I remember being worried about whether I could control the length of the last verse as in story-writing the denouement is usually pretty word-hungry. However, in the event, with this being poetic writing, it proved so very easy to achieve the required denouement in just half a line and thus complete the mission according to plan. Those apocryphal mules' fathers would be impressed.

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Jenny L. Bates's picture

I say to the author of this Mule-less poem that the poetry of their spirit is there. I can picture perhaps, the soldiers having days when their beliefs were not enough to sustain them. And like a football game of truce, the presence of the Donkeys and Mules was unbelievably kind and miraculous. For the Donks and Mules created their own mortal poetry. And just like with the game with the 'enemy' the soldiers for a brief moment forgot they were at war. And this is definitely not a cliche.

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