Monster in a Ditch - a poem
a twisted iron monster born from a ditch
valves and tubes
snouts and claws
sucked from the mud – exhaled
the warplane is just an engine
my Dad and I look
me knowing, for him -
night time air raids from lost Germans
unable to find the East End of London
lightening their load to make it home
his uncles arriving from Dunkirk
armed and uniformed
sipping tea in the front room
muddied boots left at the door
socks sodden in sand and Channel water
films and hearsay
eavesdropped stories from grown-ups’ memories
and Discovery t.v.
(suddenly, (while sat on sofa sipping coffee, channel flicking) a black and white news footage of the ruins of a city centre I know as a fifties shopping precinct – all rubble except a square flint church tower)
It's easy to forget how precious our freedoms are and how many people suffered for us to enjoy them.
This poem is based on my memory of visiting a recently excavated Spitfire found buried in a field in Kent in the south east of England. I was quite young but it strikes me now, how in a relatively short space of time, our history is so quickly parcelled up and marketed. World War Two was a real thing for my Dad, even though he was only a boy, he can remember bombing and its devastation. For me, its an RAF badge my grandfather gave me, it's a Band of Brothers or Saving Private Ryan by Spielberg, it's the shock of realising how much of the centre of Canterbury was destroyed by seeing the short black and white newsreel around the flint church tower that remains today. It's the weirdness (thankfully) of thinking that a trip to France would have been a trip to the dark side of the world. That a German was an enemy.
I think we are beginning to see our forgetfulness in the events we see around the world today. Half a mile from my home are young men in a hospital without limbs. We shouldn't forget the reality.
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