Let the News be your Muse. Send your news-inspired poems to poetry24ed@gmail.com

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Suppose they held a war and no-one came?

Suppose they gave a speech and no-one clapped
or thought that we should go and ‘make a stand’
in foreign lands - those places on a map
with borders shifting in the bloodied sand?

No longer having privates to parade
suppose those uniforms just gathered dust
in warehouses, with rows of hand grenades
(all out of date) and rifles gone to rust.?

Suppose the tanks had all been turned instead
to ploughshares, and those trigger finger skills
were used in fixing cars and baking bread,
constructing Lego, tapping at cashpoint tills?

Suppose those soldiers destined to expire
lived on unharmed and lovely, played unbruised
still with their limbs intact, and friendly fire
was just another name for barbecues?

Suppose bored surgeons took up tapestry
on silent nights in trauma wards, now bare,
instead of knitting skin and artery
and mopping up the bloody carnage there?

Suppose the Major Generals were diffused
made safe, and left to graze on their estates
and jingoistic marching bands reused
for floral dances at bright summer fetes?

Suppose these sorry telegrams decayed
in stationery cupboards, yellow-brown
and all the debts had long since been repaid
and grave-diggers laid off all over town?

© Clare Kirwan

UK to make 11,000 of its armed forces redundant

Clare Kirwan is a member of Liverpool's Dead Good Poets Society and blogs as Broken Biro


  1. With this, you took my breath away. Stunning, Clare.

  2. That really is very good Clare. I like it a lot. It has a gripping rhythm which is held very strongly by the 'suppose'refrain.

    I am not sure if you will like this, but it was reminiscent, for me, of Kipling.

    Damn good stuff.

  3. Rainy - Thank you - I think. That could actually mean anything!

    Mal - Thank you. I love Kipling... especially the Bakewell Tarts. Oh, that Kipling! No, I do love 'If' - except the last line, which kind of excludes my entire gender... is that what you meant?

  4. Yes the Ruddy 'ard Kipling that is not fattening. Not just 'If' (which I am not very fond of). It is the very skilled use of rhythm with repetition that draws your reader in to the message and induces a desire to read it again.

  5. Good gutsy poem, dealing with a subject dear to my heart! Maybe we need to question the doctrine of 'forward defence next.

  6. Thanks guys! Mal - Why do you not like 'If'?

    Stafford - I wrote it more as an anti-war poem, but I thought the army redundancies gave it another 'edge'.

  7. 'If' is a very great accomplishment. It is Kipling at his best in the use of language in such a way that people find it moving, memorable and inspirational.

    My negative feelings are just that the inspirational goes a bit too far and tips over into being worthy or sanctimonious.

    It is a kind of precursor to the great mass of self help advice that we get now except that it is done with skill and desire to produce a work of value rather than a crass commercial aim.