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War Poems For National Poetry Month: Thomas Hardy, The Man He Killed

'Destroy_this_mad_brute'_WWI_propaganda_poster_(US_version)

The Man He Killed by Thomas Hardy

“Had he and I but met
By some old ancient inn,
We should have sat us down to wet
Right many a nipperkin!
“But ranged as infantry,
And staring face to face,
I shot at him as he at me,
And killed him in his place.
“I shot him dead because —
Because he was my foe,
Just so: my foe of course he was;
That’s clear enough; although
“He thought he’d ‘list, perhaps,
Off-hand like — just as I —
Was out of work — had sold his traps —
No other reason why.
“Yes; quaint and curious war is!
You shoot a fellow down
You’d treat if met where any bar is,
Or help to half-a-crown.”
Why War Poems?  I explain here;
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War Poems: Randall Jarrell, Death of The Ball Turret Gunner

I’m going to stick with the war theme for a few more days, while I celebrate National Poetry Month–seems appropriate.  This one is undoubtedly familiar to anyone who studied poetry or literature beyond a cursory look.  I’ve included some images for those of you who may not know what a ball turret is–to make it a little easier to let Jarrell’s imagery work for you.  My grandfather was a flight engineer on a B-24 Liberator in Africa beginning in 1942.

military - the death of the ball turret gunner

          The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner by Randall Jarrell

From my mother’s sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.

 

lower-ball-turret  b17

http://illuminatedphotobooth.blogspot.com/2010/07/richard-l-greiner-ball-turret-gunner.html

 

 

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War Poems For National Poetry Month: Wilfred Owen, Dulce Et Decorum Est

gassed-1918

Panama…then Iraq, Somalia, Bosnia, Iraq again, Afganistan–right or wrong, for causes both just and cynical, we’ve been in an exhausting, nearly constant state of war, however distant and vaguely defined, since I graduated from High School in the 1980’s–and that was just a few deep breaths after the war in Viet Nam/ Cambodia/ Laos that defined my father and his generation.  It seems fitting to start out a series of my favorite poems with war theme.

I’ve thought of no other poem more than this one over the past two decades, which speaks volumes for Wilfred Owen, who wrote from a foxhole in World War I–the “War To End All Wars.”  In the age of biological weapons, this piece resounds like the deepest church bells on a cold, crisp night.

Dulce Et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.

GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!– An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.–
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,–
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

http://www.english.emory.edu/LostPoets/Seaman.html

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Friday Morning Rock & Roll Idol: Girl In A Coma

girlinacoma_thumbArt, in its multitudinous forms, rewards our attention every once in a while, and all too rarely, with small beautiful moments where thrill meets surprise–I find them most regularly in poems, but also in poems, paintings, and even in pop songs and punk rock.  Such was the case with the little Texas band Girl In A Coma, who I discovered looking for a particular old David Bowie song.  nina2Watching–listening to–their cover of  “As The World Falls Down,” my immediate thought was “these kids get it,” which is something, since most of them don’t.  Of note is the look of joy/bliss on the badass drummer–she doesn’t just get it, she feels it.  Nice.  In a just world, Phanie, Nina, and Jenn would be household names and none of us would have ever heard of all the insipid, generic auto-tune wonders out there.