Content influenced by family memories and in memory of my Great-Grandfathers who returned from the Great War as different men –
5313 – Private John W Hunter – York Regiment 1914-1918
64302 – Gunner Joseph Cowley – Royal Garrison Artillery 1914 – 1918
I wrote this in the style of diary extracts, between two lovers.
Why did you feel the need to go?
It wasn’t your fight!
I fight my continued frustration at you and the boys.
What were you thinking, did you all need to do it?
The village is so empty of energy.
I’m so sorry my love how could I stay.
My need to stand up doesn’t delete my love for you.
It doesn’t ease the pain of leaving you.
I will return.
Keep us in your prayers, we sing like brothers as I write.
My love six months has passed and every week another woman weeps.
Did you all need to be in the same battle?
My tears flowed like the Aire with the loss of Alfie, Charlie and Tom.
Happy memories, my painful enemy.
New loss hits the village, my heart sinks, a constant state of nausea.
Then I know you’re alive I’m suffocated with guilt-ridden happiness.
Just get home soon my love.
Walk Away leave them to it, your place is here.
Everything is dead.
We have destroyed everything, including nature, I am so confused?
No birds sing, no dogs bark.
Nothing is green, nothing is normal,
everything is red, everything is chaos.
Red clay, mud and blood.
Last week I sat, white knuckle grip on my rifle and cried.
My Sergeant held me for what felt an eternity.
The noise, the mayhem stopped during that embrace.
The permanent repeating echo of the thump as bullets hit chests, dements my head, hourly.
New friendships last a few days at the most. Why am I always saved?
I want to go home now.
Can I come home now?
Just run my love, get up and run!
Don’t look back, run towards the green.
Archie returned and sits silent in the bandstand, mostly crying,
we all take it in turns to hold him and kiss his head.
If you feel the same, it will be ok.
I will hold you for months and ease your pain.
The village needs you, I need you.
It’s only you and Archie left, now get up and run!
I have nothing to write in which to make you smile.
All is lost, I am lost. I cannot run or walk or feel.
My fight only exists behind a gun to save my temporary companions.
A bullet has replaced my passion, my drive.
With every pull of the trigger, the deeper I sink into darkness.
I cannot explain all I have seen and endured, the horror makes no sense.
Please find me, whatever is left just find it and never lose me!
You came back, but still haven’t returned.
Your proximity to the fire has been your friend for two months now.
The clothes horse, old blankets hanging, surrounds you in your fireside comfort.
The repetition of your spitting, stains the hearth as you watch it sizzle and crackle throughout the night.
You need to come back from the fields.
Let me into your pain,
Let me collect your tears,
Let me rehydrate your heart.
Please stop protecting me with this solitudinal imprisonment.
When I stare into the flickering life that is relentless, I do hear you,
Your voice soothes, your touch calms my flames.
I try to react, to reach out, but something lies dormant, not dead.
Please never leave me at this time,
I know your love and warmth will be my rope.
My well is deep but my love I do want to breathe your air again.
Nothing matters to me, but your life.
You looked up at me tears streaming from your blackened eyes, tremors subsiding a little, and spoke for the first time in months.
“Did we win, did anyone win?”
All I could do is hold your head close to my stomach,
My tears soaking my pinny and your hair.
My hand holding your face feeling your tears over and under my fingers as I feel your rough stubble at my fingertips.
I looked out of the window and across the peaceful meadow.
I will smooth your skin, your hair, your mind, your heart.
Your body and heart is home my love, and your mind will leave those dark fields soon and follow you home.