A Journey To The Grave – A D-Day Poem remembered

A Journey to the grave

Over fifteen years ago, as a teenager on a school history trip to Normandy in November 1998, I visited the D-Day landing sites and cemeteries and was profoundly affected by what I experienced there. I wrote a poem about it at the time, which the Commonwealth War Graves Commission published in their newsletter. I was reminded of this morning, on the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings, and so decided to dig it out.

This is what I wrote… 

 

A Journey To The Grave

As we approached,

Tin echoes of patriotism rang out,

Somehow trying to make more nostalgic

An already overwhelming and sombre occasion.

 

Staring at maps on walls

I felt should be done before,

Before the long walk;

Preparation – a lesson

In the plans of death

Before the dead are greeted.

 

Down the steps and through the graves I walked

Alone,

Apart from the company of friends,

Hoping to realise the occasion.

 

But grief did not come

Straight away –

One has to stop every few meters

And appreciate

All the A’s and all the H’s,

Just as everyone does,

Mourners in search of humanity.

 

Walking round the stones

The names seem to merge

Into each other,

My neck dragging over my chest

With the weight of empathy.

 

I passed the monuments

And the beautiful words

And felt tears brewing

Deep down.

But more than grief,

Peace was felt,

And a humbling

Gratitude.

 

The serenity of thousands

Of marble monuments,

Arching away over the hill,

Was more to me than a hundred

Forced, false tears.

 

I prayed before I left

And tried to hold on to

The name of a boy

I’d apologised to

For treading by his cot.

I wish I could remember.

 

2.11.98 

 

 

© Compo June 6th 2014, D-Day 70

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