The cycle of terror

From hungry soil — from mud 
of Flanders’ field
see us the shell-shocked souls, 
with hollowed eyes we are
the poppy’s flown, November rain  
the cries of clay from Sommes, Verdun,
and Katowice 
the rats and lice,
the worsted reek of soggy uniforms 
congealed in gangrene memories
of mold and chlorine gas.

With voices harsh from bleeding lungs, 
we sing — we singe this hymn
an echo from the crystals crushed on cobbled streets
from mounds and mortars. ash
from the grass on graves
from battlefields
we sing of presidents, of  generals
who won the wars behind their desks
who grabbed the gold
who bring again
across the centuries 
(with souls still sore)
from Iraq and Syria, from Myanmar:
September eleven
rebirth of war,
paid again and yet again with blood and bones
by us, anonymous, the army of humanity.

The Cycle of Terror and Tragedy: September 11, 2001
Graydon Parrish

Today I host dVerse Poetics with war poetry. You are free to chose your own approach, allegorical, heroic or personal.

February 2, 2020

23 responses to “The cycle of terror

  1. This is incredibly potent, Bjorn! You describe the pain and anguish of war and of those affected by it so well, especially moved by; “we singe this hymn an echo from the crystals crushed on cobbled streets from mounds and mortars. ash from the grass on graves from battlefields.”

  2. Which came first, the poem or the image, Björn? Either way, you have captured the cycle of terror in all its gruesome detail. Flanders Field did indeed have hungry soil, like a vampire it soaked up blood. You appeal to all the senses, even smell in the ‘worsted reek of soggy uniforms’, the gangrene, mould and chlorine gas.

  3. you reanimate with:
    “the worsted reek of soggy uniforms
    congealed in gangrene memories
    of mold and chlorine gas.”
    and scream from the tower:
    “rebirth of war,
    paid again and yet again with blood and bones
    by us, anonymous,”

  4. I can almost taste the imagery in your poem, Bjorn, which assualts the senses in lines such as:
    ‘he rats and lice,
    the worsted reek of soggy uniforms
    congealed in gangrene memories
    of mold and chlorine gas.’
    It brings to life what I would imagine the horrors of war to be. And then you contrast this experience of the common soldier with those who win wars behind desks and escape with the booty. Bravo!

  5. This will be ‘the poem’ that resonates …. for a long time to come. The vivid horrific descriptions, the emotion you elicited, the history, I sing your praise, Bjorn.

  6. paid again and yet again with blood and bones
    by us, anonymous, the army of humanity.

    One just could not imagine that the Generals sitting behind desks getting the accolades of gold medals at it again without conscience on human life. Brought vividly from actual war zones, Bjorn!

    Hank

  7. A great poem Bjorn! You are so right in saying that it is the old men behind the desk that wage war… and it is the young men and women who die on the battlefield… touted as heroes, but not around to receive the adulation!

  8. My grandfather and his three brothers were cannon fodder in France, you depicted this well. Then my father and uncle in WWII conflict zones … living with the war damage is tough!

  9. With voices harsh from bleeding lungs,

    I have to say that this was a very depressing prompt, Björn… not that you don’t know that, obviously.

    Your poem was magnificent.

    -David

  10. we singe this hymn–so chilling and true. I like that you spoke not only of long-ago wars, but of the continuous line that stretches both back and ahead. (K)

  11. Definitely a cycle of terror. “we singe this hymn”–such a powerful line. I think of all the young men marching off to what they think is glory–or even my son-in-law, a combat veteran with three tours in Iran and Afghanistan with PTSD.

  12. “we sing…we singe this hymn” AMAZING words. The searing details here provide the depth of horror in war. These words
    “the rats and lice,
    the worsted reek of soggy uniforms
    congealed in gangrene memories
    of mold and chlorine gas.”
    and then the inevitable march on to the end of the poem, progressing into the present with 9/11 and the “rebirth of war” and the army of humanity.
    Interesting note: when I just typed rebirth….my fingers slipped and typed “regirth of war”….but that’s what it is, right? Seems we never learn and the wars get more global and more horrific.

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