One paragraph for all the lost bodies,
somewhere still beneath dirt and grass
and the slow trundle of grazing cattle
meandering, one fence line to another.
Musket balls get plucked up on odd days,
rolled across a palm like a marble,
dropped into a Tupperware tub,
they outlasted the bones and flesh.
A field with five hundred years to forget
yet the calf gets sick with lead
loses its eyesight to a pellet
from a gun fired half a century before.
History reaches past its paragraph
of three thousand nameless men.
Another misery of litter
leftover once the war was done.
Following tonight’s theme of smoke and mirrors, and feeling like the older you get, the less you actually know, I started thinking about how we learn about the history of warfare in schools. There’s a disconnect between the modern day and its wars, and battles such as the one at Bloor Heath* in Staffordshire where around three thousand men are thought to have died in the fighting.
It’s easy to look at these historic events and pick apart the motivations, and the mistakes that were made. However, when dealing with similar situations in more modern settings, the issue can often seem clouded.
I’m left to wonder what will be written five hundred years from now about the current wars being fought and the empires being built.
*The Battle of Blore Heath was part of the Wars of the Roses. I’ve been debating getting back into writing some historic posts so if you’d be interested in knowing more I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. Would it be odd to re-introduce history posts onto the site?
I have always found it fascinating how we walk on the same soil where once the battles were fought… how it might even impact us now, with those calves… and what will the future be with the business of battles we fight.
Humans have always been good at fighting and spilling blood. I’m not sure there is a single patch of land that’s not been fought over these days.
More more! This is an amazing post that ties history to the present.
“the slow trundle of grazing cattle
meandering, one fence line to another.”
Excellent description here including these lines….the Tupperware mention brings it into the present.
One thing: I think you mean “lose” instead of “loose”?
Love this post and your explanation of the history. Would love to see more!
I’ll write a post this weekend about the history of the site and the battle itself. I’m really glad you enjoyed the poem.
I like your description of the lead from five hundred years ago still causing damage.
Thank you Frank. The calf eventually recovered but that’s mostly due to my gran bringing it up to the stables by the house and giving it her undivided attention. Such a sweet thing. You could walk up and give it a cuddle.
I like historical poems and like learning the background information. About the lead and battles and how it keeps harming after so many years, I was just reading about lead fishing sinkers and how they are killing loons in a matter of weeks if one is ingested. The sinkers are the same shape and size as the stones loons take into their gullets. So depressing what us humans do to innocent creatures caught in a timeless crossfire.
I can’t believe they are still allowed to use lead in anything! Unfortunately there is still much from the past that can hurt us, we don’t seem done creating future problems either.
You had me at /history reaches past its paragraph of three thousand nameless men/. Puts me in mind of those who build condos on old graveyards, or put picnic tables over the dead at Gettysburg. Stunning work here.
Thank you Glenn. There is something in how easy it is to forget tragedies that took place underfoot. The brook at Blore Heath was said to have run red with blood after the battle.
That’s an amazing poem. After awhile in Iraq I started asking myself daily, what the hell is the point of war? This is a beautiful reminder—it’s pointless and only serves to harm in the present AND the future, and in ways that will only become apparent long after the smoke clears. Beautifully written.
Thank you so much. There is so much more clarity in hindsight.
Great write! The woes of war never leave us. They always show up in the strangest ways and places. Great images in your poem.
Thank you. I’ve wanted to write about this field for ages but could never quite get it right.
Sometimes a prompt will bring out what we have been ruminating on!
Very nice. I enjoy war poetry written as close to the time of the war as possible. I write some of that type of verse and find it oddly invigorating for its angry madness. One I composed is titled ‘Blue on Blue’ about the death of Pat Tillman, following my reading of “Where Men Win Glory,” by Jon Krakauer.
I struggled writing about current politics. It’s not a topic I find very easy to find a standing in. I try to keep up to date but I rarely incorporate it. We each have our strengths and styles.
I agree with Björn about walking on the same soil as people in battle, Carol, which is there in your opening stanza. I get that feeling when I go to Norwich Market, where I’m reminded of Kett’s Rebellion and the bodies hanging from the wall of the castle for everyone to see; or any part of London, York or many places in the UK – we have so much history! The reminder of the past in the stanza about the calf getting sick with lead is doubly tragic.
The calf did recover eventually. You’re right about the UK having such a rich history though. I love an old market town.
I enjoyed my trip to Ely the other weekend for that very reason!
Interesting correlation between the lead and the flesh and bone; one causing blindness half a century later, and the other feeding the soil, feeding the circle of life. I agree with you that there seems to be a disconnect between past wars and where we find ourselves as a human race today. But the greatest enigma for me is why we can’t see that war must be fought spiritually, flesh and blood need not be torn nor spilt. How we still look for heroes and enemies outside ourselves when a true warrior masters himself. Himself only.
Bitterness of war goes on…feeling sorry for the calf too.
I feel like I should have added a note to say it did recover eventually. However, it did end up being the most gentle creature you’d ever meet because it got so used to people checking up on it each day and had to be brought into one of the stables for a while. When we eventually turned it out again you could wander up and scratch him behind the ear.
Oh, I’m glad to hear it…thanks for sharing, Carol 🙂
I can feel the deep melancholy in this poem. Somehow, we still find a way to pay for the blood we shed, even from so long ago.
Interesting and engaging direction you’ve taken with your perspective on Amaya’s smoke & mirrors prompt Carol well written. The negative human debris is always with us.
Your poem captures the long long reach of war, Carol, and the way that life continues to suffer far into the future. I think our future generations will look back and wonder what the heck we were doing to each other and the planet.