Jennifer’s Wish

The three of them set out,
Jennifer and the twins,
to the tidal island in the first week
of school holiday. The twins
had made the walk across the mile
of exposed seabed many times
with their parents but Jennifer’s
didn’t do things like that with her,
so she was fascinated by the debris
left by the water’s retreat.
Long brown half shells scattered
like nail clippings amongst seaweed
that popped like bubble wrap,
bits of dead crab crisp flakes
in streaks of spilt liquid on the brown
carpet, and a round prawn cracker
skeleton that Dan called a sea urchin.
Everything smelt weird too,
clean and strong at the same time.
The twins found a sheep’s head,
ghostly grey and bloated, and laughed
as they poked it with a stick,
but Jennifer didn’t. She thought
she recognised its skin. On the island,
looking back towards the promenade,
she asked if the sea would really come back,
what if it didn’t this time?
– and that set the twins off again.
She didn’t hear them though;
she was hoping that if the water
did come back it would wash up the seafront
and keep going, all the way up
the hill and down the other side,
into the cigarette cracks and car seats
and under her parents bed,
into her school reports box
and make everything fresh and forgotten

War Is Because Of Us

The word must have got around because
peasants from the neighbouring hamlets
and boys from the forest converged
upon the town as if it were a market day

It was baking mid-July
and I was cutting hay
when the mayor came
to see me in the meadow
and said to go and bring them all
into the square
women and children too

And the ultimate masters of life and death
were there, a few of them came by taxi
in slick exacting uniforms
and told the mayor and the townsfolk you have
eight hours to do with them as you please

forced into the pond

But first there was vodka outside the town hall
and some tried to flee through the fields
but horsemen rounded them up
and counted heads and got more drunk
then forced them to tear down the statue
of their lord
jeered by the crowd carousing
and they had to put his pieces on a board
and carry it round the square
and all were made to sing

They sang
The war is because of us
the war is for us
the war is because of us
the war is for us

But me
I hid in the house
I came to the square
I helped two hide in the tool-shed in my yard
but I’m afraid I cannot help you with anything
I chased them to the barn
sweat stinging on my skin
I panted
I told my wife to go home
and close her ears
and never to answer the telephone again

The carpenter’s boy
asked for water
his tongue was cut out
and then a long silence
pierced only by singing

But fourteen hundred people could not be killed
with such violence in a day
there was another method

The barn

I didn’t let them use my barn
they used another my neighbour’s
they were ordered to go inside
they had to enter inside
the drunken cries
the chorusing screams

They brought the eight litres of kerosene
the masters had provided
and doused the barn
what followed I do not know
it was all so long ago
I only see

the fire weeping in the red sky
and a pang in my eyes from vodka
in midsummer
and a chill I must have caught that early morning
cutting hay
and the noise
but they weren’t singing anymore
they weren’t singing
war is because of us

Afterwards the bodies were all entwined
together like roots
sticky black roots from which nothing shall grow
but what followed I do not know

Guy Elston @guy_elston is a 26 year old writer and support worker. He has had poetry published in journals in the UK, Canada and the Netherlands, including Writer’s Block Magazine, Fun, and Message in a Bottle. He is currently studying Holocaust Studies at the University of Amsterdam.

Banner Image “Gems & Time Are Dearth With A Walking Stick” by Robert Frede Kenter. @frede_kenter