Guest poem sent in by Iftikhar Burhanuddin
(Poem #1211) Disabled
He sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark, And shivered in his ghastly suit of grey, Legless, sewn short at elbow. Through the park Voices of boys rang saddening like a hymn, Voices of play and pleasure after day, Till gathering sleep had mothered them from him. About this time Town used to swing so gay When glow-lamps budded in the light blue trees, And girls glanced lovelier as the air grew dim, In the old times, before he threw away his knees. Now he will never feel again how slim Girls' waists are, or how warm their subtle hands. All of them touch him like some queer disease. There was an artist silly for his face, For it was younger than his youth, last year. Now, he is old; his back will never brace; He's lost his colour very far from here, Poured it down shell-holes till the veins ran dry, And half his lifetime lapsed in the hot race And leap of purple spurted from his thigh. One time he liked a blood-smear down his leg, After the matches, carried shoulder-high. It was after football, when he'd drunk a peg, He thought he'd better join. He wonders why. Someone had said he'd look a god in kilts, That's why; and maybe, too, to please his Meg, Aye, that was it, to please the giddy jilts He asked to join. He didn't have to beg; Smiling they wrote his lie: aged nineteen years. Germans he scarcely thought of; all their guilt, And Austria's, did not move him. And no fears Of Fear came yet. He thought of jewelled hilts For daggers in plaid socks; of smart salutes; And care of arms; and leave; and pay arrears; Esprit de corps; and hints for young recruits. And soon, he was drafted out with drums and cheers. Some cheered him home, but not as crowds cheer Goal. Only a solemn man who brought him fruits Thanked him; and then enquired about his soul. Now, he will spend a few sick years in institutes, And do what things the rules consider wise, And take whatever pity they may dole. Tonight he noticed how the women's eyes Passed from him to the strong men that were whole. How cold and late it is! Why don't they come And put him into bed? Why don't they come?
Ubiquitous pictures of dead/wounded soldiers/civilians in newspapers and on TV create havoc in the mind. So what better time to draw solace from the poignant yet beautiful poetry of Wilfred Owen, the Great English Anti-War poet of WWI, who said, "Above all I am not concerned with Poetry. My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity. Yet these elegies are to this generation in no sense consolatory. They may be to the next. All a poet can do today is warn. That is why true Poets must be truthful." [broken link] http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ltg/projects/jtap/tutorials/intro/owen/#L45 The above site has a bio of W.O and detailed lit. crit. of Disabled. The wonderful lines describing the trauma of 'what was and what will never be' - playing soccer, women, etc - are the best that I've read. "One time he liked a blood-smear down his leg, After the matches, carried shoulder-high. [snip] Some cheered him home, but not as crowds cheer Goal." I thought Owen's choice of metaphor of soccer for war was because of the similarities between war and sport - the history-repeats-itself 'sport' of war and the war-like strategies in sport - but here's a historical reason: "Dominic Hibberd has noted that this line can be linked to the recuiting poster of 1914, 'Will they never come?' (see 'Some Contemporary Allusions in Poems by Rosenberg, Owen and Sassoon', Notes and Queries August (1979), p.333. Several recruiting posters used the motif of linking sport to the army, and there were numerous recruiting drives at soccer matches." To Peace. Iftikhar