The whistle blows to sound the charge

and over the top they bustle and barge,

covered from head to toe in mud

and soon tainted with flesh and blood.


Up the ladder with slippery rungs,

a scream of rage from terror filled lungs,

adrenalin coursing through every vein

with the fear of not coming back again.


Knee-deep mud sucking boots from feet,

tangled in barbed wire, feel a blast of heat

as a shell explodes just off to the right,

leaving in its wake such a dreadful sight.


Bullets whining and whizzing by

calling the names of those who must die,

screams for help from men in distress,

their lives torn apart in the horrible mess.


Distant machine-gun fire from a bunker,

shells and grenades exploding like thunder.

Looking for shelter to weather the storm

and praying he won’t come to any harm,


a private, no more than twenty years old,

who joined the forces, feeling gallant and bold,

now shaking with shock and confused disbelief,

just stumbling and mumbling in mortified grief.


His heart skips a beat; his eyes open wide,

a smoky shell crater; a place to hide.

He dives down, into the shattered remains

of fathers and sons without any names.


The bile is rising along with his fear

as he senses his breaking point is quite near,

alone in a world of death and destruction,

ducking down and beseeching redemption.


A boom to the left, the ground heaves and shakes

and that final shell is the shock that breaks,

as a scream wells up from deep down inside

that is far too hysterical; too terrified to hide.


Breaking right through the walls within

and carried aloft on cacophonous din,

eyes squeezed shut to block out the sight

as he enters a world of eternal night.


The whistle blows to signal retreat

and men bathed in death are now on their feet,

running and slipping on the lives of their friends,

aware that each heartbeat could yield a dead end.


From the crater he watches with a vacant stare,

he’s no longer afraid for he’s no longer there.

Snuggling deep into his mother’s embrace

as he gazes up into her sweet smiling face.


Curling up into a fetal ball,

he doesn’t register the Sergeants call.

He’s lifted and carried to be safe from harm,

saved by his friends; his brothers in arms.



Written by Darren Scanlon, 6th June 2014.

Revised 23rd July 2015.

©2015 Darren Scanlon. All rights reserved.


17 Comments Add yours

  1. Susan Langer says:

    Such a sad reminder of the devastating blows of war. Once you’ve witnessed the effects, you are never the same.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. olganm says:

    Heart-wrenching. Vividly rendered and terrifying. Thanks Darren.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. gh0stpupp3t says:

    No prob Darren. 🙂


  4. gh0stpupp3t says:

    Hauntingly beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. noelleg44 says:

    Incredibly real and terrible, Darren. As a military Mom, I worry about my son everyday. It doesn’t matter which war, they are never noble, just gruesome. Some worthy, some not, but all horrific.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed they are, Noelle. The poor soldiers putting their lives on the line, often for reasons they know not nor would understand.


  6. joylennick says:

    Really ‘felt’ this poem, Darren. Dreadfully atmospheric. I’m at present writing the true life story of one ‘Frederick Knight’ who served in the lst World War. He was a Brit serving in the 10th Canadian Army Unit and your poem brought to life the harrowing research I delved into. He lost an arm and had dreadful injuries but lived until he was 89. It should be published in the autumn. I’ll let you know when.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Joy. I’ll look forward to it.


  7. It really doesn’t seem to matter “which war.” They’re all the same to the soldier who is dodging death. So well written that I was there, Darren. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Chris White says:

    A tremendous poem Darren. Bodies and often minds battered and scarred beyond belief. We always need to remember. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Terry Cooper says:

    Very well written Darren and thoughtfully relayed. I may come back for this one at some stage when I feel the timing is right, it is a bit yesterday rather than now that is the only hindrance. Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

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