Ahead of Remembrance Day, Geraldine Durrant shares with us this poem she wrote after visiting the war graves around the Belgian city Ypres. She describes the city as seemingly ‘haunted by the soldiers who marched to their deaths along the road now marked by the Menin Gate, where every night the Last Post is still played to honour their sacrifice.’
Did they return, those spectral soldiers,
to the places where they fell,
to the dug-outs and canal-banks,
at Ypres and Poelkapelle?
Did they haunt the gentle pastures,
turned to cattle and to corn,
and the girls they should have married
with their babies gone unborn?
And do they sometimes linger,
in the quiet of the night,
uncertain outside windows
warm and welcoming with light?
Can they see the hallowed places
where their lives and loves were laid,
and in reckoning their bargain
do they think the price well-paid?
Do the fallen play at football
with the remnants of their foe,
as once they did in No Man’s Land
one Christmas long ago?
In silent circled Ploegsteert
do the restive graveless roam,
and trace with wondering fingers
their names engraved in stone?
At Menin’s blasted tribute, do the halls of Heaven hush?
As pausing we remember them, do they remember us?
Geraldine Durrant is a retired journalist, feature writer and children’s author who – since her husband was diagnosed with dementia a year ago – has kept a diary about her experiences as a carer for her husband. We will have the privilege of publishing Geraldine’s incredibly personal writing on the blog every Saturday, so keep your eye out for more on this series.
If you have any reflections you’d like to share in honour of Remembrance Day, please do so over on The Joy Club forum.