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The pain never sets in
and I hope it never will.

But when midnight strikes
and my vision starts to shift.

No more comforting voices
to hold and soothe me.

No more reassurance
no more distractions.

Its at these hours of the night
that I can feel it staring bullets at my back.

And everything that's happened simply starts to collapse.

What's left of my sentient mind can only convulse
as I relive things that are better left unknown.

The misfortune in every coming of age
who would've guessed.

All I can wish at these times is that I were eternally dead.

annh Apr 2019
It was a dark and stormy night, or at least it was for our single-parent family. The rest of the neighbourhood was enjoying the kind of clear skies which meant a hard frost overnight and a slippery ride to school in the morning.

The barometer in our neat, wee house at the end of our short, ordinary street was falling rapidly, as it often did these days. My father, an Iraq War veteran - ’Honourably discharged for dishonourable reasons, and don’t you forget it. ****** fascists!’ - was in charge of our weather. From blue skies with candy-cotton clouds in the morning to an eerie half-light of silent anticipation by late afternoon, we would end the day huddled around the kitchen table waiting for the maelstrom to hit.

We ate carefully trying not to scrape our plates with our knives and forks, and avoiding each other’s eyes. The cauliflower cheese was examined as closely as every other vegetable my aunt Kate - ‘I’ll not have my family eating slaughtered animals!’ - served up to us. You’d think the food on our plates was the most interesting thing in our precarious little world. Peas were my favourite because you could count them over and over...until they were finished.

Wind and rain lashed our evenings regularly. Sometimes we were treated to the automatic-rifle fire of hail, but worst of all were the sandstorms which ****** all the air out of our home and stymied any hope of sleep. On those occasions we all huddled together in my sister’s bed - ’No, Alex! It’s Livvy’s turn to hold the torch. You can look after the phone in case we need to ring Dr Matt to help Auntie Kate.’

We updated our worst-vegetarian-creation notebook and talked in close whispers about the weather. Mostly, we sat quietly and longed for blue skies and sunshine tomorrow, while the captain cowered in the cubby-hole beneath the stairs and screamed into my six-year-old brother’s plastic walkie-talkie. ‘Man down, man down, man down!’
A drabble for Anzac Day.
Sharon Talbot Dec 2018
Old Harold lived on the second floor
In a darkened room with an old locked door.
My cousins and I used to tease him there,
And he’d chase us out, give us a scare.
I didn’t know exactly who  he was,
“He’s a mean old man,” said my favorite cos’.
“Grandma let him live here after Grandpa died.
She doesn’t even like him and we don’t know why.”
When he was out we would take a peek.
Around the ocher walls and his bed we’d sneak.
There was nothing but an iron bunk
And a glass-front chest filled with lots of junk.
One day Old Harold must have complained
About our pestering…we really were pains!
But no parent’s lecture could keep us away.
And Grandma’s yelling at him not to stay.

Old Uncle Harold disappeared for years.
We would make up stories for littler ears.
But one day my father had news of him.
He lived with “a harlot” and his checks she’d skim.
I was old enough to know what it meant
And asked Dad why uncle Harold seemed bent.
“He was gassed in the War in a field at Verdun.”
Dad told me in a tone that left me stunned;
“And was then sent around to pick up the dead.
With the gas and the horror, his mind just went.”

Now I recalled all the times we had teased
And agonized him when we should have pleased.
But now it was too late to apologize,
He was so lost, he wouldn’t recognize
His grown tormentors, when he hardly
Knew my father, the kindly mentor,
Who visited him every week,
Who paid for anything to make him last,
And reminded him of better times past;
Telling him of the time he caught a butterfly
And brought it to show the girls and guys.
How he wanted to let it fly away,
But when the boys had killed it anyway.
He cried and was called a coward then,
And as my father spoke and wept again.

Old Uncle Harold died alone
In a sterile, cold-floored nursing home.
None but Dad came to grieve
And I, only an hour away, shunned
the feeling and just felt numb,
Until Dad called and told me the story
Of Harold’s death and only then
Could I say, “I’m sorry!” to his ghost.
I should have said it long ago; the one who
Maddened him least repented the most.
If I could say “Sorry” for the times we made him shout.
I realised he’d just have yelled, “Get the hell out!”
This is about my great uncle, a casualty of WWI, who was the "bogeyman" of my youth and then the sad story of a forgotten veteran.
Terry Collett Mar 2018
Polly watches the sun rise
into the room. She lies beside
George in his bed. It was
the only way to calm him
down last night. He thought
he saw snipers in the trees
over the way. He sleeps still.

Eyes shut and eyelids like
smooth shells. She didn't
think he would be able to
perform but he did. As if
nothing much had changed.

But he was not the same.
The War has blunted his
sense of humour. Twice
in the night. At one time
he shook the bed with the
nerves going off. She lies
still gazing at him there.

The thin dark moustache.
The lips still. What if he
had died? Shell shock is
a kind of death she muses.

Where to go from here?
He thinks she's his wife
and not the maid he used
to bed while on leave.

His parents are not happy
about her being with him
most of the time. But she
alone can calm him if he
loses his nerve and shouts
and screams and shakes.

She is supposed to sleep
next door in the adjoining
room but he wanted her
in his bed. It had been
nearly a year since he last
made love to her before
he went back to the trenches
and the Front. She can
sense him close to her.

She wants him inside her
again and again. She had
best get up in case someone
comes along and sees her
in his bed. She rises up and
goes to the adjoining room
to wash and dress and brush
her hair which is in a mess.
Terry Collett Sep 2017
The remains of a soldier
laid on a muddy plank of wood,
and that was the first day at the Front.

George pushed the memory aside
like an annoying fly, but it stayed there
as he watched Polly
make up his bed.

And the hand sticking out
of the trench, a wedding ring
still visible discoloured by blood.

George studied the maid
as she moved, how she smoothed
down the cover with the side
of her palm.

He wished she  could smooth out the memories
stuck his head: the calls of the wounded
and faces of the dead.
An officer with shell-shock in 1917
Terry Collett Jun 2017
They're out there
George said
peering out
the window
of his room.

Polly who had been
making his bed
looked over at him.

Who are George?
she said.

They think
I can't see them
but I do
creeping along there  
by the trenches.

She came across
and stood beside him
and looked out
the window.

Cows moved
in the field
over the way
tails wagging slow.

They shot Briggs
right through the head
and he was beside me
one minute
he was talking
next gone
a hole through
his forehead.

They won't get me
like that
he said.

It'll be
all right George
just keep near me.

She held his arm
a cow moved
behind the hedge.

Back back
George said
and held her close
and away
from the window
his eyes large
and staring.

She kissed
his cheek
he turned
and gazed at her
his eyes
frightened looking.

They won't **** me
will they?

No George
not now
she said
holding him.

He stared ahead
his eyes watching
a moving cow.
Terry Collett May 2017
George walked
to the door
of his room.

Polly who
had been sitting
by the window said
where are you going?

I need fresh air
he said.

He went out
she followed
he walked along
the passage
down the stairs
his footsteps
walking slow
on each step.

She kept him in view
wondering if he
was going to have
another turn.

He crossed
the hall
straight ahead.

She followed him
walking past
the new maid
who had replaced her
a timid girl who now
shared the room and bed
with Sally the maid
she once slept with
before George
came home
from the War
shell shocked.

George opened
the front door
went out
into the grounds.

Polly followed
closed the door
after her.

She watched
as he stopped
by the trees
at the horizon.

She walked
close to him.

They're out there
some place
he said.

Who are George?
she said.

The ***
he said.

He stared
at the trees
in the distant

See their big guns?
he said.

She watched
the trees sway.

Keep behind me
he said to her
snipers out there
he pointed across
the grounds.

There was
no one there
just the wind
and birds
no war sounds.
Delta Swingline Mar 2017
My headphones are on.
I know what I'm hearing.
And I hope you can hear my heart break with every hit.
There is no excuse.
There is no cover up.

You wouldn't allow me to sit idly by and listen to you drain the blood from your hands.
I've been there, I've done that.

Are you even counting? I'm not, and even I know you've doubled up on the hits.

I can hear it.

Can you?
Lark Train May 2016
I fear the bass and treble.
The Stuka's nasal voice ringing out.
The tremulous earth beneath two treads.
The planet itself was set to tremble.

I fear the detonation.
A whistle in the darkness.
Harmonizing bass and treble.
Imminent inflammation.

I fear the bass and treble.
MereCat Nov 2014
04:14 and the shadows are long
A boy pressed into a rail-side bench
Raises his arms to shelter himself
From the cloudless sky
He ticks off seconds with the twitch of his left knee
And the jump of his unhinging jaw
He falls
He falls nowhere
But flat, back, motionless in his seat
Hands cocooning head like a heavy day’s work
And then digging up and pressing down
Trying to rid himself of the sounds
Which splice him like glass shards
Or screaming shrapnel
And mutilate
His view of a pretty English station
And a blue steam engine
Beaming like the moon for which it was named
04:18 and he sets himself straight
Like ***** shoelaces
Or cards on the mantelpiece
Winds a bit of string
Around his wedding finger
And croons
As a man inside a toddler
Re-wired refrains
Lick his lips like soup stains
       Pack up your troubles…
                Long way to Tipperary…
        In your old kit bag…
                                 I wonder who’s…
                My heart’s right there…
                                 Kissing her now…
         Smile, smile, smile…

And from my compartment
I watch him fade like
An ink blot from a pillow case
While a boy who looks a lot like him
Turns with purposeful avoidance
And takes the opposite view
Of a pretty English station
He soothes the angry creases
Of his forehead
Of his uniform
And smiles
And mutters to himself
And they said it would be over by Christmas
04:14 and the shadows are long
A boy pressed into a rail-side bench
Jogs his knees
With the obligatory poppy
His mum pushed into the zip of his winter coat
Drooping like a hangnail
He is busied and hassled
By the phone in his palm
It plays an odd kind of game
Where those who die
Are allowed to come back
And press *Retry

— The End —