Thursday, August 20, 2009

An unfinished poem

This is an unfinished poem by Keith Douglas:

Actors waiting in the wings of Europe
we already watch the lights on the stage
and listen to the colossal overture begin.
For us entering at the height of the din
it will be hard to hear our thoughts, hard to gauge
how much our conduct owes to fear or fury.

Everyone, I suppose, will use these minutes
to look back, to hear music and recall
what we were doing and saying that year
during our last few months as people, near
the sucking mouth of the day that swallowed us all
into the stomach of a war. Now we are in it

and no more people, just little pieces of food
swirling in an uncomfortable digestive journey,
what we said and did then has a slightly
fairytale quality. There is an excitement
in seeing our ghosts wandering...

It was written as he waited with his troops (he was only 24, but a tank troop commander), to begin the assault on Normandy beaches. Three days later he was killed by a mortar shell.

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