Sunday, November 11, 2012

CDI - The Telegram

November 11th.  Armistice Day. 
I chose a villanelle for the main portion of the poem
as it is circular and goes nowhere.
Like our ability to stop fighting each other.

I - The Telegram Boy

He hated his job.  
Hated being hated.

A satchel around his chest carried a sealed envelope.

Sealed.  But he knew its contents.  
Everyone knew its contents.
Paper and gum cannot hide these things.

The War Office did not send telegrams lightly.

Eyes watched him, willing him, begging him to continue past.
But he had to stop.

Relieved eyes watched 
from neighbouring yards,
from behind curtains,
from footpaths. 
People frozen in fear.  
And relief.  

Except for one.  
Who just froze with fear.

The world lost its colour.  

All that could be seen was the boy and his bicycle.
He opened the gate and approached the house, holding an envelope.

Apologetically he offered it, turned and slipped away
into the grey mist of disbelief.

II  - The Politician

They fall for the trumpet’s martial strain,
Ignoring history’s warning cry,
And repeat the same mistakes again.

Blood rushes hotly to their brain
But, never stopping to wonder why,
They fall for the trumpet’s martial strain

Their courtiers paint the quest humane;
But they cannot see that it’s all a lie
And repeat the same mistakes again.

Sold on pictures of a sweet domain,
With babbling brooks and a clear blue sky,
They fall for the trumpet’s martial strain.

It matters not the numbers slain,
So they stoically wave the troops good-bye
And repeat the same mistakes again.

They are living in a different plane
Where they never see the children die.
They fall for the trumpet’s martial strain
And repeat the same mistakes again.

© J Cosmo Newbery 2012

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  1. that second part is so lyrical, as with the form, but its almost a lament as senseless our violence...our only answer it seems at times...again and again and....i dont think i could be one of the informers carrying those would break my heart every time....

  2. Whoa. Both parts so moving. Agh. The first so vivid, the second like a dirge. k.

  3. after i read the first part, i had to take a break... so moving. glad i did - only then could i properly read through the second part.
    what a strong contribution. great work.

  4. Ahhhh, there definitely is a difference between a politician and a statesman. I think statesman are relatively rare. Sigh.

  5. Both writings are well done ~ The first one is heart breaking though..I wouldn't like that job ~

  6. Well said and written.

  7. I remember movies and news reel clips showing the telegram boys on their bikes delivering these messages. I think you've nailed it too when you said, some peek out from behind curtains hoping her passes them by, some freeze in fear. Very sad. Both of these are excellent pieces. Nothing about war is glorious at all, all it does is make the arms dealers richer.

  8. These are both so well expressed, poignant. My mother tells of the day she received news of my father's loss (I was a baby). In her case, it was representative of the Army Air Corps who brought the news. As a nurse, I've had to inform people of the death of relatives. Even when it's someone whose death is expected, it's an awful thing to have to do--it seems there's really no way to cloak the words to make it gentler.

  9. Lovely villanelle, but I also like the first one. I love the contrast of style and time b/t the two.

  10. The emotional core is strengthened by the villanelle, both are very strong pieces.

  11. wow...both very powerful but esp. the telegram boy touched me madly...knowing what kind of message he tough

  12. Part I The Telegram Boy just sucked the air right out of me... and the line in Part II "repeat the same mistakes again" is so haunting.

  13. This was so full of emotions ... loved the set !!!

  14. Sorry, struggle to leave a comment via phone on blog! Powerful poem! Great work!

  15. Captures the truth that war is the old sending the young to die. Or as they said of the soldiers in the Great War , lions led by donkeys

  16. Thank you for both. When Tony Robinson talks of 'worst jobs in history' he forgot both the telegram boy, and the police knocking at your door at a time when one of your loved ones is absent.

  17. Well done on both parts. The details in part one were fantastic.

    The structure in part two, the repetition, was befitting given the content. Very mindful, deliberate expression. Awesomely built.

  18. Great writing.

    "Except for one.
    Who just froze with fear."

    chilled the blood in my veins - I can't imagine this horror.

    Anna :o]

  19. Great piece...both are strong and poignant. The first one leaves you with a strong resonance of vividness and the second one is a tough one. My favorite is the first part.

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  20. Such a personal way of expressing the horror of the living when their loved ones and even strangers have been killed in war - those days must have been so dark for those serving and those at home. This is exceptionally well conceived and executed.

  21. Oh this is a potent and powerful lament of a poem. So moving, with the actual telegram shown. The villanelle portion is wonderful with its repeating line........the utter futility of repeating the same mistakes again comes across loud and clear. Loved this. Hate war.

  22. really enjoyed the contrasts between the two pieces...the first placing war in the everyday and the layman...the family next door who suffer the full weight of the loss...and then in the second piece, the government, the cannibalistic machine who order death but never feel....very well done

  23. I had commented on the second one earlier. Now the first one: so difficult to be a 'telegram boy.' I understand why he would hate his job. He was no one's friend. Made me sad for all those he visited......

  24. thoughtful, powerful, heart-achingly truthful writing.

  25. Fantastic -- two angles of the damage of war -- where there is no glory.
    Where rhetoric leaves horror.
    Nicely done -- the rhyme made it moving and captivating.

  26. The telegram boy was such a powerful write--I was holding my breath! The second, lyrical about such a painful truth. Well done :-)

  27. You capture anxiety and stress very well in both the telgram boy and the potential recipient The telegram boy is like the angel of death.'The world lost its colour' is a great line which expresses that feeling of impending doom.
    V Good poem..enjoyed

    Well crafted villanelle as always.

  28. I don't know what to say--this is exactly right, both parts, every line.


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