Tag Archives: history

History Book

history book                                       History Book

I found my corner, made it my shelter,
became my station, behind my back the wall.
I had studied introversion.
I knew why I was silent,
a witness, baffled by it all.
Could not partake in light conversation.
What did they find to say?
At least I was a good listener,
a sounding board, a rock amid the spray.

We had to read about the Romans,
how they marched over our land,
come to extend their empire,
the conquest Caesar planned.

They built a wall to keep out the Picts
who had skin dyed blue with woad.
I did not care for Romans
nor how they made a road.

We learned that Wellington won at Waterloo,
to exile Napoleon Bonaparte.
I preferred to hear of those
who gave all they had to art.

I flicked through my mouldy history book,
sat at my inky desk, my vigour sapped.
Its pages dull yellow and grey,
which seemed appropriate and apt.

Each chapter made it clear
how bad it was in the past,
not that the present was much better,
and peace never seemed to last.

Some still wait for a better day
that may never come,
others are in despair,
like a buccaneer on a burning ship,
the final taste on his tongue,
fire, smoke and rum.

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One Of Many Names

One Of Many Names

I fell with my horse at the Battle of Beersheba
but I fought on the winning side.
The last thing I saw was a silver flash in the sky
after I heard the shout to ride.

Almost broke my back building the Great Wall of China,
did not live to see it complete.
Remember me as a slave in an Inca temple,
iron chains round my wrists and feet.

I am just one among the names
never mentioned, left forgotten.
I know what is true, what is rotten.
I was there when it happened,
I saw the sight.
I witnessed the flood and the darkness
that seemed the end of light.
One thing I know,
those who rebelled never got it right.
Take comfort.
Only clouds hide the sun by day,
the moon and stars at night.
Mine is just one of many names
not worthy of fame,
but we like to think we were a help to those
who climbed the steps to light the flame.

The film flickers, there I am, captured on camera,
unknown early aviator.
See my flight fail, my plane crash wing first in the bare field.
There is no sound, no narrator.

Riddle of the Root of War

Riddle of the Root of War

Was it a game got out of hand?
A contest with a tribe from some other land?
War I try to understand.
Why change the relay race baton
for a weapon in your hand?

Did the one who lost the chariot race
make conflict out of disgrace?
How came the war paint on your face?
Why the struggle to master more space?

I favour the farmer with his plough,
the builder with wood and stone,
the maker who makes what he wills, anyhow.
Warrior, I speak to you alone,
now your tale has been told,
admit you gained nothing
from stolen silver, ill gotten gold.

A history of agriculture,
invention, trade and exploration,
it could have been alone
without that of invasion,
empire and war.
That is how it could have been.
Why reject it as the dream
of those who are still young and green?

Was it a game got out of hand?
War I try to understand.
Did you first hold a baton
then a weapon in your hand?

The riddle of the root of war,
I come asking at your door.
The way the world has always been,
since the beast spoke on the shore,
will that be the only answer I will glean?

 

My Vast Disappointment

My Vast Disappointment

My vast disappointment
I cannot conceal,
when I think of history,
the fact that it’s real.
It first hit me at school,
left me empty,
too hollow to feel.
My inside is damaged,
and will never heal.

Revolted by revolutions,
empires and wars,
that men from one country
could invade other shores.
My vast disappointment
can only grow.
I know it is with me,
and will never go.

Appalled, left dumb,
to despair, I will not succumb,
for there’s love,
and there’s pleasure in the seasons,
and good times to come.

A Man From Syria

A Man From Syria

A man from Syria was on the news.
They filmed him on a bridge.
Below him a river flowed,
somewhere in England.
He had made it here,
journeyed by lorry on the roads,
on a boat on the water,
he managed to be stowed.
It seemed to me,
his spirit was still and cold,
but he had saved his body.
Bent and hollow,
he stood in his shoes.
That he was free
to him was no victory.
He had lost his homeland,
the one he was,
he was not allowed to be.
Next he sat at a table
by the river in the open air,
a reporter with him,
in another chair.
“What’s the answer?”
the reporter asked.
“Do we allow more refugees
to come to our shores?”
The man raised his head.
“No,” he said. “You want the answer?
End the war in Syria.”
The reporter nodded, pale and sad.
Then it was back to the newsreader
in the studio,
the next item to be portrayed.
The man from Syria
had vanished from the screen.

I could not help but think of Bible times,
all those wars and sieges, long ago,
that happened in the Middle East,
the lines of lamentations,
the broken psalms of despair and woe,
ever since Moses said to Pharaoh:
“Let my people go.”

The disgrace of human history
we all must learn about at school,
the list of empires and emperors,
the names of those who broke every rule,
conquests, invasions and wars,
the trap self woven that will never break,
the dark dream from which we cannot wake.
The ones who work without weapons
always the ones to pay,
as the man from Syria
made clear to us today.

End the war in Syria.
Listen to the refugee.
The politicians know what must be done
to help him return to his home
to be himself, the one he was born to be.