As the 1st of July fast approaches many of us will be involved in remembrance services for those who died at the Somme on that day in 1916. Luckily the vast majority of us will never know the horrors those men endured. This short poem tries to capture the fears the men would have experienced in the moments leading up to going over the top of the trenches that morning.
Almost deafening in its power
somewhat overwhelming in the scheme of things
and considering just before a shower of molten metal
rained down upon the cowering men entrenched in dugouts…
Curled up foetal like to escape the thunderous blasts.
The stench of cordite lingers long
and hangs about, unwanted just above
the trench—a trough not fit for swine but occupied
by lions brave and proud-supine-waiting for the whistle…
Trembling at the thought of facing the murderous barrage.
Shouts assault the stillness-Orders
barked-A common movement practiced oft before
an unwanted shift—knowing full well what awaits above
but moving forward just the same and heading for…
The nightmare on a gently rolling Picardy plain.
Dawn…. Breaks….but spirits fail to soar
a roar…a bellow as the horde beset the parapets
scrambling and crawling and scuttling, and shutting
out the fear, getting ever near to the broadside, the fusillade
that will greet them on this early July morn.