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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Every Soldier Needs A Soul: Poems of a Soldier 3

"Every Soldier Needs A Soul: Poems of a Soldier 3" by David McDonald is a remarkable collection of war poetry. It's the last in a trilogy by this poet, who began writing poetry as part of the treatment for his combat related post-traumatic stress disorder following his many years of service in the armed forces. It marks a return home of the soldier. We tend to associate war poetry only with the World Wars and long-dead poets such as Wilfred Owen, but it is still an active genre today as, unfortunately, we're still fighting wars. "Is this what is man's achievement ...?" asks the poet in 'An Ending', and he goes on to say 'Can we not find better use, find peace ..."? If only we could. Soldier-poets like David McDonald remind us in the powerful, concentrated language necessary for poems of the horrible suffering that wars inflict, both mentally and physically on victor and vanquished alike.
There are poems in this book about the supporting women at home, the brave child at her father's funeral, burying a brother, an old soldier ending up on the streets, flashbacks and unseen injuries, to give a very few examples. These poems range widely in style and content, from anger to love, from the fanciful to the downright gritty, from the horrific to the charming and witty. My own favourite is "An Angel is Waiting for You" in which the poet describes how an angel will look after a soldier who has died in action "with gentle care".
You have to read McDonald's poems. They're modern, heartfelt, imaginative, entertaining and skilful. You'll understand that "a soldier is not different to you", just someone doing a job where he is trained "to do the worst that a man can". It's a tough lesson but so beautifully taught by this poet.

Tell My Rose

Don’t let my Rose hear of how I died, lying alone on this cold hill
Tell her that I died surrounded by friends, quietly and peaceful and still
Don’t tell her off the human horrors surrounding me where I lie
Speak gently when you say to her I spoke her name and gently cried

No mention of the bullets that tore at me or the shrapnel in my spine
Just the hushed mention of a death that was painless, mercifully short on time
Spare the thought of the blood I have lost no mention of the leg that’s not there
Speak with kindness and clarity tell of a kind nurse who stroked my hair

I want my Rose to remember the man she loved without restrain
She should always have the memories of me passing away without pain
Then I can face what painful death my God has set aside for me
I can wait until I die and then watch my Rose from above where I’ll be


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