Tuesday, 17 March 2015

National Curriculum OR Connecting with Wannabe Heroes

When I worked in public libraries as a librarian, it seemed that children and young people were frequently given homework projects on the subject of war. To confront them with the horrors of war has to be a good thing. However, when they were telling me all about their respective projects, enthusiasm would nearly always stem from getting a buzz from the idea of war rather than being appalled by its consequences…

A parent once complained to me that her son wept while repeating a teacher’s graphic description of how a relative had suffered a lingering death from ‘undignified’ wounds sustained during WW2. “No child should hear such things!” she protested. The ‘child’, though, was 16 years-old and (surely?) deserved to know that war just ain’t like it is in the movies. 


Today we have History
and World War Two
spills across the classroom,
filling every trench
with a stench of homesickness
and blood, desks dripping
pools of mud, where elbows
nudge each other,
half an eye on the clock
as we get stuck in

Under fire. Bayonets fixed.
Will we have the guts
to use ’em? Somewhere,
birdsong and sunshine,
but these have no place in skies
where Death’s face pours
acid tears on an atomic bomb
package in texts
carefully selected for their bias
for a gung-ho glory

Science next

Copyright R. N. Taber 2001; 2015

[Note: This poem has been slightly revised and an alternative title added (2015) from the original as it appears in Words of Wisdom, Poetry Today (Forward Press) 2001 and 1st eds. of First Person Plural by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2002; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

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