Blanche: a poem by Sophie Howard

It’s 11/11 or Remembrance Day, as it’s known throughout the Commonwealth. On this day, we commemorate those who fell in service to the Crown. No holiday or day of commemoration has spawned as much poetry as Remembrance Day. There’s the classic, For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon, Alan Seeger’s Rendezvous with Death, and, of course, In Flanders Fields by John McCrae, which established the poppy as the symbol of Remembrance Day. I’m glad there’s so much poetry around. Remembrance Day is a different subject for me to write about, so I get to resort to the wit and words of others.

This one is a little different. There’s plenty of poetry that deals with us, the protagonists of this struggle, very much at the expense of those who suffer most from war: the civilian population, especially children. A poetic reflection on a story about a young girl in World War II, this poem was written by my niece, Sophie Howard. It is her debut poem, and at the tender age of twelve no less. It’s rare for someone so young to understand something she has been so fortunate not to have to experience first-hand with such profundity and treat it with such tenderness and grace. Like her, this poem is pure amazingness, and an utter privilege to be let into this incredible young lady’s thinking about war from a child’s perspective.

Blanche

by Sophie Howard

Men go off,
Down the street.
Like a parade,
To the beat.
They hope to win,
So they need food.
No one argues
Though there’s long queues
I go to school,
I go back home.
This cycle goes
For weeks unknown.
Trucks go through town
On cobblestone.

One got wedged
In the mud.
A boy jumped out
Lands with a thud.
Runs away
That he tries
Straight into
The mayor’s open arms.
He gets dragged back
to the truck,
Which is now unstuck.
Now I wonder
Why he’s there.
Out of the truck
More faces stare.

I shall follow,
I run along.
I run fast
And strong.
I follow it,
Past signs
That say
RESTRICTED.

Through the trees
And bars I go.
The truck’s ahead,
But there’s a road.
The sticks and leaves
Scrape my face.
Like angry cats
I say.
When I feel
I cannot go on.
I reach a clearing
Before too long
I look around,
This is wrong.
Why are the men
Doing this?

Silent children from behind a fence,
Hardly took a breath.
Hungry eyes looking on,
Never taking rest.
Shouts and cries,
For food they long.
They are hungry,
But food I have none.
The cries go on,
Long and loud.
The noise reduced,
To distant sound.
Slowly I leave,
But will come back.
With the food
That they lack.

I go back,
Into the mist.
To the town,
Where I have lived.
Those children,
That is wrong.
They should live
A life that is long.
They should go
To school as well.
If they can read,
I cannot tell.
I reach my home
In not too long.
Behind the fence,
They are strong.
They live without
The things they need.
There are things,
they can achieve.

From my plate,
I take food.
More than I need
From the school.
I walk along,
With heavy bag.
To those that trapped,
Who are sad.
I learn their names,
Like Jess and John.
We are friends,
before too long.
Why they are there,
I do not know.
Conditions get worse.
It starts to snow.

It’s now cold,
Snow and ice.
Men come back,
Lost the fight.
I still go,
to the fence.
Every day
None of rest.
Once I come,
There is none,
Nothing there,
And no more sun.
I smell smoke.
It’s a scare.
Hard to see,
Misty air.

Crunch of sticks,
Behind me now.
There’s nothing there,
No more sound.
I see a man,
A silhouette.
With a gun,
I now fret
I hear a shot,
I hit the ground.
Now I feel nothing,
There is no sound.
Nothing more
No more snow.
Spring has come,
For all to know.

(C) Sophie Howard, 2018.

Miss Howard (*2006) was born and raised in Queensland, Australia.

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