Poems of remembrance

From APPLE MAN

From Oak Bay poet Frank Wilson and his 2016 collection Apple Man:

August 1914

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At the farm on the gentle hill my seven year old father

wanders unaware through dripping dew to feed the noisy hens.

Breakfast cleared, grandma bending to her daily round;

cleans out the candle-sticks, refills the oil and trims the lamps.

Another morning soaked in work and fresh brightness

as heavy meadow-hay loads are carted from the far cocked field.

Dough is pummelled and pushed into pancheons to rise

and simple lunch-time fare laid out for hungry men who talk of war.

This is the last day of how the world has been for so long.

The last day before the beginnings of the great carnage.

The last day before working boots are covered in blood.

The last day before village boys start the long walk to the front line.

The grandfather I never knew is patient to explain to his son.

Apparently, a prince was killed in some place with a funny name and

someone he calls Kaiser Bill is marching his men into Belgium.

London has decided we should join in to help our good friends the French.

My father listens as he talks on into a calm, late-arriving night.

It should all be over by Christmas — and the price of good horses will go up.

But low-browed grandma muttering about loss and tears bolts the door

and prays as she turns down all the smoking lamps and snuffs out the candles.

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Victoria’s Romanie Repp sends in this poem by his father, Steve Waslander, who grew up in Holland during the Second World War. Waslander wrote it after being disappointed that the graves of 43 Canadian and American soldiers buried in his town of Lemmer were untended. His poem appealed to the conscience of the people of the town, who thereafter began looking after the graves. That started in 1946 and continues to this day. The poem is translated from Dutch.

LONESOME GRAVES

As I stand by these lonesome graves

By the graves of these few, brave and daring young men

They fell with their airplane, out of their squadron

Yes, then goes my thinking, they are from a far away shore

Then, my mind goes to the many people they left behind

Yes, we also offered our lives to serve our country

We also love our family and friends

But, we have a great advantage because our graves are here

You, the family across the ocean, only have a photo of your loved ones

Your sweetheart only has some presents

Your mother a lock of hair, from the son when he was young enough to comb it

They are now buried in a strange land with strange people

Dear Mothers, we would like to say that your son fell for our freedom and gave his life

For that reason we have to thank you Mothers, from that far away shore

Mothers from that far away shore, your son will rest forever, rest in a grave in this far away land

Mothers, there is no pen in the world which can write the thanks that would be enough to bring your sons back

But, we can put flowers on the grave, a wreath by the cross

Mothers, your son will rest forever, just as if these graves were at your home

We feel a duty that your sons in freedom rest

Maybe, in the future this will keep both countries close together

Your sons offered his life, as a duty to our country

Therefore, we look after his grave and let that be your support

These graves for us represent a holy part because your sons fell here for the freedom of Friesland.

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