Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Delville Wood

Bluebells on the parapet
Originally uploaded by goforchris
Delville Wood on the Somme was the site of a terrible battle in WW1. One tree remains from that period; the rest of the wood has grown since the carnage. It is a powerful and beautiful place.

The trees are still. The morning light
flickers through unfurled leaves
of palest green, and glances on
the random stones, each one a tale
of heroism in this wood.
The inner ear hears voices then
- the howls and oaths and sobs of pain –
and flinches from the screams of shells
which shattered trees and soil and men
when Hell’s gates opened on this place.
Now dead leaves mask the pitted soil
of crater holes among the trees
where trenches snake, grass-masked and still,
with bluebells on the parapet.
I think of sweet youth lying there
with shredded limbs and broken smiles
and as I pause, a church bell sounds
as if to give a pious hope.
But here is sacred, where I stand –
it needs no choirs, no altar-rail
but only memory, and love
and silent prayers for lives unlived
and birdsong in an empty wood.