Letter to an Unknown Soldier

I DON’T have any connection to anyone who fought in the first world war, or none of which I’m aware.

Letter to an Unknown Soldier invites everyone, from practising writers to rusty refugees from school English lessons, to write a letter to an unknown solder from the 1914-18 war. As the website puts it:

2014 is already proving to be a year jammed-full of WW1 commemoration, but for us, it is important to move away from cenotaphs, poppies, and the imagery we associate with war memorials.

Our project invites everyone to step back, take a few private moments to think, and make their own contribution. If you could say what you want to say about that war, with all we’ve learned since 1914, with all your own experience of life and death to hand, what would you say? If you were now able to write to the unknown soldier, a man who served and was killed during World War One, what would you write?

I really wanted to write something as a way of connecting to the sacrifices made and the tragedy of so many lives squandered, a way to try to keep feeling the appalling waste and remembering.

So I’ve written a poem (see below) and submitted it to the project, which anyone can do. I think it is a wonderful memorial of great power and importance.

All the poems will be published on June 28th, giving me not only a chance to acknowledge my debt, but also the opportunity to be seen alongside wonderful poets such as Liz Lochhead, Jackie Kay, Mab Jones, Benjamin Zepheniah and Daljit Nagra.


Dear Soldier

I can only hope
that you believed
the things they said;
that you dug deep
trenches of heady
sweetness and felt
the mighty rightness
of your death.

I hope the hot
air of their empty
bromides lifted
you up and over,
far up and over,
away from mud,
blood and screams
to that other country,
mother country.

I hope your ears
were full of hymns
and birdsong when
you died, your heart
swollen with pride,
so that your life
meant something to
you because it
didn’t mean enough

to all our fathers. They
smudged your red
into their pink stained
maps and passed the port,
a few feet to the left,
a few feet to the right.
Their price worth paying,
your life cut short.

Posted in Writing

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