Source: Four Canadian soldiers, sleeping and writing letters in the trenches near Willerval. (IWM, 2019). Insert image: Simon Armitage. (Encyclopædia Britannica, 2019).
"The ‘war poet’ and ‘war poetry’, observed Robert Graves in 1942, were ‘terms first used in World War I and perhaps peculiar to it’. From Anglo-Saxon times to the Boer War, war poetry in English was written largely by civilians and did not have a clearly defined identity; with the extraordinary outpouring between 1914 and 1918, it established itself as a genre and the soldier-poet became a species." (Das, 2014)
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Simon Armitage (26 May 1963 - present)
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In this section you will find the poem as well as online content that provides additional background information and literary criticism. Scroll down to see all the content.
by Simon Armitage
On another occasion, we got sent out
to tackle looters raiding a bank.
And one of them legs it up the road,
probably armed, possibly not.
Well myself and somebody else and somebody else
are all of the same mind,
so all three of us open fire.
Three of a kind all letting fly, and I swear
I see every round as it rips through his life –
I see broad daylight on the other side.
So we’ve hit this looter a dozen times
and he’s there on the ground, sort of inside out,
pain itself, the image of agony.
One of my mates goes by
and tosses his guts back into his body.
Then he’s carted off in the back of a lorry.
End of story, except not really.
His blood-shadow stays on the street, and out on patrol
I walk right over it week after week.
Then I’m home on leave. But I blink
and he bursts again through the doors of the bank.
Sleep, and he’s probably armed, and possibly not.
Dream, and he’s torn apart by a dozen rounds.
And the drink and the drugs won’t flush him out –
he’s here in my head when I close my eyes,
dug in behind enemy lines,
not left for dead in some distant, sun-stunned, sand-smothered land
or six-feet-under in desert sand,
but near to the knuckle, here and now,
his bloody life in my bloody hands.
Source: Armitage, S. (2015) Remains. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/zcsjmnb/revision/8