Although born and raised in England I have lived in Portadown for over ten years now. Married with two young children I spend my days working as an IT consultant but increasingly spend my spare time writing poetry and short stories. In 2004 I was a runner up in the BBC End of Story competition.
Remnants Found in Ruins
by David Braziel
‘Man constructs poetry out of the remnants found in
- Chezlaw Milosz
It must be after midnight but it is too dark in this stinking
barn to see my watch and I can’t risk striking a light.
It’s not the enemy I'm worried about but some of my
comrades here would beat me to a pulp for disturbing their
peace. The time doesn't matter anyway; I don't need to sleep
tonight. The chance of surviving tomorrow's attack is slim
and I've lived against these odds three times already. My
luck is stretched too thin and this time it will surely
I am not a soldier, not a fighter by trade, I was a poet.
This is a poets war some say. Hundreds of us artists, writers,
intellectuals all made the journey to this corner of the
world and signed up for the noble cause. Mostly they turned
out to be useless soldiers and were wiped out in their first
encounter. I surprised people, surprised myself, with my
ability to stay alive and my ability to kill. The killing
turned out to be the easiest thing of all.
It was poetry and words that brought me here. Lying in my
comfortable attic room I read the poets from the Great War.
I saw the beauty of those works and felt somehow that the
death and destruction had been worthwhile because of the
poetry it created. I am ashamed of that thought now. Those
poets gathered fragments from the ruins of the battlefield,
cleaned them and presented them to me in a silk box. The
horror was there in their words, in their images, but it
was so polished that it dazzled.
War turns some men into poets. The pain and destruction
move their pens, put words into their mouths. For me it
is different, for me the war has erased all thoughts of
writing. The desire to put this madness on a page has been
beaten out of me. This should not be imortalised, it should
be swept under a carpet and forgotten. There is no point
in hoping, as I once did, that humankind might learn from
the words of poets, from emotion recalled in tranquility.
The human race does not learn.
I fell into conversation with a priest on the march today
and he asked me, staring me straight in the eye: "Do
you believe in god?" I could see the desperation in
his face and felt his need for comfort. I almost lied for
him. Almost. You might think that men so close to death
and evil would turn to God, that there would be some spiritual
awakening in the mud of the battlefield. I think that was
in my mind when I rushed to join this fight. I began as
a hopeful agnostic and, if nothing else, my exposure to
this reality has cured me of that.
I know that I will die tomorrow and that my death, all of
my effort will have had no impact on this war or on the
life of one single person that I care about. I do not believe
that a list of my sins exists anywhere except in my own
head but still I do not want to add to that list. I cannot
cause the end of one more human life or begin another’s
Here in the dark I have removed the magazine from my rifle
and emptied it. I will fight tomorrow, I will not shirk
my final duty. I will shout and charge with my companions
and my empty rifle will have the same impact on the outcome
as all those around me. I will fight beside these men and
I will die with them.
I have only one wish, one prayer to the god who does not
exist. For pity's sake let no one write a sonnet over my
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