Promise My Children

© David Campbell

Winner, 2014 FreeXpresSion Traditional Poetry Competition, first published in FreeXpresSion, May 2014.

Promise, my children, you’ll listen
to the sigh of that first morning breeze,
watching the early dew glisten
on the leaves of the paperbark trees.
Savour that moment on waking
as the dreams of the night fade away,
capture the dawn as it’s breaking,
with the challenge that comes with each day.

Marvel at what you are seeing,
from the valleys to ridges on high,
welcome each moment of being,
all the beauty of earth, sea and sky.
Wonder at mankind’s invention,
the remarkable things we have wrought,
miracles past comprehension,
that defy all the limits of thought.

Offer your love without seeking
to demand anything in return,
focus when others are speaking,
as you’ll find there is much you can learn.
Celebrate all you’re achieving
on the many new paths you may tread,
honour the past with your grieving,
but be mindful of what lies ahead.

Banish expressions of sorrow,
and abandon all thoughts of despair,
cherish the hope of tomorrow,
for the future now rests in your care.
Learn what you can from my story,
and remember just what these words mean:
courage has no need of glory…
and the truth about war is obscene.

Hell is the only perception
I can give to this nightmare of pain,
horror beyond your conception
that may send us completely insane.
Shelling has left us defenceless,
and our guns are all mired in the mud,
gas means that many are senseless,
and the trenches are running with blood.

Bodies are shattered asunder,
and the fallen are left where they died,
victims of GHQ’s blunder,
and the curse of a field-marshal’s pride.
Progress is out of the question,
the machine guns will tear us apart,
no-one dare make the suggestion
that we’re more than mere lines on a chart.

Sleep will not come while we’re waiting,
as we huddle on soaking wet ground,
rain shows no sign of abating,
with the scream of the shells all around.
Nothing can come of this madness,
and the spectre of death haunts us all,
weariness coupled with sadness
as we watch yet another man fall.

Promise, my children, to reason
with those madmen who argue for war,
pray that there might come a season
when the guns will be silent once more.
Morning will soon be arriving,
and this day I am sure we will fail.
Few have a chance of surviving,
so remember the name…Passchendaele.

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