Remembrance Day 2016

“2016 season’s exhibition at the museum was entitled “Remembering WW1 on the Island of Lismore”
This raw and tender poem by Pauline Isabel Dowling needs no introduction from us.

“I wrote this poem after many hears of standing straight backed at remembrance services and at every one silently remembering the forgotten, the never mentioned, the always unsung. I wanted to make them visible in the only way I knew.

Remembrance Sunday 2010

I remember the mothers
The sisters, the wives, the daughters
And……oh yes…

The girlfriends.

Certainly the girlfriends
left alone with no claim
(not even the same name)

I remember their deserts of waiting
Their oceans of wondering if,
When the bloody tide runs out
Their love will cradle
Pale bleached bones
Crumbling to dust

I know their hearts were ripped out
And taken to the front
Their lives frozen.
I know they gestured days away – being brave
I know they knew that without
blood, scars, screaming corpses
chests of medals and memorials
their suffering was nothing
And such suffering is only ever

Unsung
I lay my wreaths
Shed my tears
Sing my hymns
For this other battlefield
Where silence rewards the loyalty
Where nothing records the humanity
keeping homes…..towns…cities sane
Until the butchery peters out
As it always does,
Until the screaming dies with
No more appetite to throw
Young lives on the pyre of hatred,
Until those still breathing turn for home
Knowing love will be waiting

I remember the spoils
The ranks of those raped
with a savagery reserved for
Female flesh punished as the enemy
Women and children made
HIV positive denied drugs…cast out…reviled

Worse than Unsung

Blamed

They count… they certainly count
Though their medal is shame
And their reward death

I sing of them

I remember

I remember women laying wreaths or
Polishing stones in Northern France
Old women who’d waited in vain
For lovers to fill them with laughter
Their wombs with life
I remember the armies of unloved women everywhere
Their aging beauty the butt of jokes
Girlfriend
Made spinster
Made teacher
Not even a widow.

I sing too of the wars in our streets
our homes… our hearts.
I wear my poppy for them all
I stand in church and listen
To the silence
as those that count are remembered
My straight back bearing witness,
To the never mentioned,
the always forgotten
the forever unsung

I remember them all.

PD