Valentine Soldier

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic
Soldier on Western Front mortally wounded writes a Valentine poem to his wife on the only thing that is at hand while he carries out a conversation with a dead pigeon.

Submitted: February 10, 2014

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Submitted: February 10, 2014

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The boom of  guns, screaming shells, persistent rain, numbing cold, blood sucking lice, rotten corpses, constant diarrhea, rancid food, that god awful mud, these were but a few of my least favourite things that I woke up to, on that Valentine’s Day in 1915.

Here I was in no man’s land, a bullet stuck in my guts, one in my right arm and one in my leg, while all round me lay dead men. Did I say men, flaming bloody liar I am. They were boys, teenage boys just like me, still wet behind the ears lying there in the mud, like overturned terra cotta soldiers caught in a mud slide.

I bet old King Georgy and Kaiser Willie are nice and comfortable in their castles reading their Valentine cards today. Lots of flowers, chocolates and pretty gifts to give to one another, all bought by secretaries no doubt. “I love you dear” written at the end of their two-faced poems.

What has my Mary got from me on this day of love? She certainly has no card with love on it from me, (our mail in and out took a direct hit the other week, you know the stuff, bits of flesh and bits of bones, mixed in with letters and Valentine poems) but with the way things are going, she will be getting one from the Ministry of War, yea a nice one from Kitchener beginning, Madam, it is my painful duty……….. I wonder if they will write her a little poem to go with it.

Noses are red from the smell of gas,

Stomachs puking up here on the grass

Soldiers on leave, will ride you lass,

You’ll probably be getting it up the ass.

What the hell did England have to go to war for, to defend Belgium and its murderous legacy bequeathed by King Leopold, less than half a dozen years before? 10/15,000,000 blacks dead from exploitation. Never could keep their noses out of other bastard’s affairs, could those fuckers in Whitehall.

Now here I lie, dying, in a dirty bomb ploughed field, a shell case for a pillow as I gaze up at an empty sky devoid of cloud and bird. I look around and I look ahead, I see some German soldiers watching me from their trench. I must be dead and I don’t even know it.

Jesus Christ almighty who will look after my Mary and my new born son, he’s only weeks old. There will be no men left to love her at the rate we are dying here for King and country. Why oh why did I volunteer.

I remember last Valentine’s Day and the one before that when we wed. We kissed and promised that we would never forget this day, for our love for one another would remind us. We have had no post for nearly two weeks; took a hit we were told. I don’t think I am going to make it, a few close shaves in the past three months, I think my name has been passed on to the bullet makers at Krupp. Saw a few mates take a long trip skywards; “they lie out there on the wire fully dead, their souls gone to heaven as the parson had said”. I see my one way ticket is all about me, written in my blood. Jesus H Christ it is cold. The Germans are still staring at me as I look behind them at the watery sun breaking free from the few morning clouds. I lift my arm and wave to them, they do not respond, never met a German in my life. Their heads look a bit like mine, same kind of features. Doubt very much if they are animals. Heard they played a game of football around Christmas time with some of the lads.

Mary will be up now eagerly waiting for the postman, terror and happiness etched in equal quantities on her face. The whole street will be waiting. I wonder if the German wives are like my Mary, waiting for their Valentine cards. Not much joy this year on Valentine’s Day, not for the thousands of widows or the thousands of heroes without a leg to stand on.

Aaah well, there is a time for living and a time for dying. If there is no heaven or hell I will be a long time dead.

“Hey Fritz’s, did you get a Valentine card from Frau Fritzie” but again there is no reply, they just continue to stare at me.

“I didn’t either but I will send her another one. Maybe the first one did get through, I will send another”.

I must hurry or I will miss the post, Christ Almighty its bloody cold. Jesus, there is a lot of rabbits boxing out there in that pot-holed field. Green rabbits, they must be Irish, did you ever see the likes of it.

Aaah I know, I will write her a love poem on my……….. shell casing. Ooh Gawd, I can hardly move but move I must. OOH Jesus, help me. Thank you Lord for helping me move, I will write her a limerick. She likes limericks you know.

It’s a nice brass casing, don’t know how it got out here, and I don’t know if it is German or English. Don’t really give a shit.

I need something to write with, left my pens in the trench, silly old me, and I took a gun instead. I suppose I expected to return in one piece. Reminds me of when we thought we would be in Berlin for Christmas and be back home for the New Year. War won for land of slum and scurvy. Fucking bullshit, how could we be so stupid to think that we could defeat the German army in a couple of months? The most advanced army in Europe if not the world. Aah tis to be sure, we are nothing but cannon fodder.

God almighty my mind keeps a wandering, there’s bloody orange dogs boxing the rabbits now. Bloody weird I tell you.

I know what I will do; I will write her a Valentine in my blood, which will be a first for her. I stick my finger in the hole in my thigh and start to draw a heart with a bullet in it. I find it hard to concentrate but with effort I make the heart shape, and I change my mind and make an arrow that goes all the way round the cylinder. Underneath the heart I scrawl “Mary my love,” Mayday Mayday.

I look across at my German enemy but he has not moved and I can’t understand why not.

There is a dead pigeon lying beside me with no head, ha, he has a message on his leg. I wonder what it could be, Belgian chocolate for all us volunteers when we get to Ostend, please form an orderly queue.

“Well Mr Pigeon, can I have a feather from your plump arse”.

“Of course you can Mr Gallantman, have two”.

“Thank you Mr Pigeon, one will suffice”. 

“Suit your bloody self; oh you are already bloody, Mr Gallantman”. 

“Oh Jesus, the headless pigeon is talking to me”.

“What shall I write Mr Pigeon”?

“Well don’t write her a load of smut, not when you are on your way out”.

“I don’t want to die Mr Pigeon, I want to live and grow old with my wife, and I want us to die together surrounded by grandchildren. Oh god help me Mr Pigeon, I love her so much, do not look at me as I cry for the life giving blood that is ebbing away from my broken body. I want strong sons and delicate daughters that do not have to go and murder some poor soul who is too piss poor to be off any importance to his country”.

“You can’t look at me Mr Pigeon, you have no head”.

“You have chosen to kill Germans; you could have stayed at home and worked the coalmines like your father and your father’s father had done. I saw you coming home tired and weak from hunger”.

“I believed in my country Mr Pigeon, I don’t know why; it never gave me anything, just lots of poverty. Did you know Mr Pigeon; it took the army three months feeding me extra rations so that I would be strong enough to kill these Germans”?

“Enough of your weeping and gnashing of teeth, you will die here today and you will be scooped up and dumped in a mass grave. Write the goddamn poem now”.

“Alright Mr Pigeon, sorry, I am scared of death, I am so young”.

“Yeah, I was young too, Mr Gallantman, look at me now, not a leg to stand on and my arse is going to get plucked by a stinking cry-baby”.

“I’m very sorry Mr Pigeon but I need your tail feather to write my poem”.

“Pluck away my good chap and keep it clean”.

“I can hardly see the casing Mr Pigeon, help me write the limer…………….

That afternoon a detail of soldiers from the German side, out collecting bodies, dead and wounded, came across the body of the gallant man. He held in his hand a feather covered in blood as was his hands, and a shell casing.

Taking his body they laid him beside a row of his fellow countrymen his shell casing still clutched in his hand to await collection. Having collected the bodies and laid them out, both sides collected their dead and buried them in no man’s land.

The dead shall rise again and indeed they did three days later when an enormous shell struck the mass graves. Into the trench came a hand clutching a shell case, the very hand that belonged to the gallant man. Effing and blinding could be heard all along the trench as they were showered with bits of skin and bits of shin, no doubt somebody’s kith and kin.

What ya got there boyo a gruff voice called out to his mate who is waving the hand above his head. A hand with a shell case and………….. it’s got something written on it. Hey lads it’s got a heart and the name Mary and the word mayday, as his voice trails off to a whisper. There is a poem,

Mary my heart it doth weep,

Here I shall always sleep,

My love for you is deep

In the ground it will keep.

Al………………….

 

 

 

 

Woodmountman.


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