Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Stretcher Bearer


A boy at my school was being taunted about his grandfather being a 'cowardly conchie' during the First World War. 

When I asked my mum about this she told me that the lad's grandfather had not fought in the war but acted as a stretcher bearer, frequently on the front line of battle, and was no coward. 

She also explained to boy Roger (I would have been about 10 years old at the time) that people who hold fast to their convictions rather than surrender to demands to the contrary are no cowards anyway.

(Image taken from the Internet)

STRETCHER BEARER

I wear a badge of courage
few can see who look for medals
on the chest
or a victory sign to oblige the press
anxious for a story
but less interested in mine;
I’m no hero, not me,
shooting holes in the glory
of a devotion to duty

I wear a badge of courage
few can see who look for scars
won in battle
or, better still, a crippling injury
that will treat me
to free beers at local bars;
for me, only looks
and words drawn like swords,
politics of all wars

I wear a badge of courage,
will join heads bowed in gratitude
and pride at the finest marble
monuments to its tears, the price
(no choice?) of freedom,
so many would have us believe,
if not the likes of me
left stitching up the glory
of a devotion to duty

Under fire, I, the stretcher bearer,
Front Line conscientious objector


[From: On the Battlefields of Love by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2010.]

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