The Engineer

Old men who have foolish ideas and no self control
Old women who play the victim and sulk
Middle aged men who want to walk away
Middle aged women who live vicariously through their children
Brave young men who try to pick up the torch
Brave young women who fight for their rights
Children who have no idea what they’re in for
Babies who are innocently self absorbed

And last: the caretaker who overcharges for his services

All of them get on a speeding train
The tracks abruptly end six miles ahead
But the engineer jumps at the last minute
Preserving his life alone
The crowd observing this catastrophe
Congratulates him on a job well done
And he’s given the key to the city
Drinks on the house
As everyone turns their backs on the smoking ruin

This poem, if you want to call it that, is as close as I’ve ever come to automatic writing. You dear reader are welcome to interpret it any way you like. 

Sea To See

No longer an ocean between us
Only a turbulent sea
My light infiltrates your darkness
But it’s still too murky to see

No forest or mountains oppose us
Nor rivers that run to the sea
Your light penetrates my darkness
Not quite enough to see

With the water beckoning to us
Who’s the first to dip into the sea?
Your darkness my lightness coalesce 
And it’s all that we need to see

In Flanders’ Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

~John McCrae

“In Flanders Fields” is one of the most popular and most quoted poems from World War One. It was composed by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian physician. He enrolled with the Canadian Expeditionary Force at the age of 41. Because of his age and his medical background, he could have enrolled in the medical corps but instead he chose to join a fighting unit.  He was inspired to write the poem after presiding over the funeral of his friend and fellow soldier, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer. Both men fought in the Second Battle of Ypres. Only one of them would live to tell…

The Second battle of Ypres was fought between April 22 and May 25 in 1915, in the Flanders region of Belgium. It is noteworthy since this is where the German army launched one of the first chemical attacks in the history of war. Despite this horrific onslaught, the Canadian lines held for over two weeks, and the Germans were unable to break through.

Describing the scene as a “nightmare,’ McCrae wrote to his mother: “For seventeen days and seventeen nights none of us have had our clothes off, nor our boots even, except occasionally. In all that time while I was awake, gunfire and rifle fire never ceased for sixty seconds…. And behind it all was the constant background of the sights of the dead, the wounded, the maimed, and a terrible anxiety lest the line should give way.”

McCrae’s close friend, Alexis Helmer, was killed during the battle on May 2. The next day, as he presided over the funeral, McCrae noted how quickly the poppies grew around the graves of the fallen at Ypres. He composed the poem that day, May 3, 1915, while sitting in the back of an ambulance at an Advanced Dressing Station outside Ypres. This location is today known as the John McCrae Memorial Site.