I have my father to thank for the fact that I cannot look upon the grief and loss and waste of war with anything but immeasurable sadness. I, like him, cannot countenance conflict and hatred. He was traumatized by his own experiences in North Africa and Italy in the Second World War and became an implacable pacifist. I owe more to him than I was ever able to tell him.
I rarely inflict my poetry on anybody, let alone a wider audience, but I wrote this yesterday:
I wept today;
I wept often today,
Reminded once again
Of the futile butchery
All those many years ago.
I weep often
When I hear the haunting sound
Of the last bugle call,
Cracking the canvas of the life
I have painted for myself.
I have stood and wept
Under the Menin Gate.
Streaming to obscure
The endless carved lists of the dead.
My father wept;
Years ago now,
As he heard again
The names of his own war-torn youth,
Once again war-torn.
Mosul and Kirkuk -
Where he went to learn the art of war,
But learned to love the people there,
Before he was sent elsewhere
To kill other people in another land.
I never knew.
His tears were all he ever told me;
Those and his nightmares.
But he is gone now,
And his dreadful nightmares with him.
I hated him
In his resolute refusal to argue with me:
“Arguments cause wars”.
It was almost too late when I understood,
And loved him for it all.