at the Conscientious Memorial Stone, London.                                             | back

Listening to Dinah Livingstone reading poems on Remembrance Day 2011
| Introduction | Two Poems | Every Casualty |                        Remembrance Day

TWO POEMS read by Dinah Livingstone                           | watch

VERSO, by Ruth Fry, c 1939

You say I must fight for my country _
With bombs and landmines?
What kind of a country is that?
That tells me to blister the faces of little children,
With poisoned gas?

I would rather have no country.

The country I long for
Is the country
That asks me to go to help everyone in distress,
That urges universal service,
The country that claims the creator in me, not the destroyer.

I think the country I love
Is scattered in little patches all over the Earth.
It has no armies, for it has no frontiers.
It is the only country now fit for a child to grow up in.

But the little patches must spread
Till they run together,
And there are no bloodstained spaces in between,
Till the whole Earth is one country.

I hear you ask:
Are you German, British, Italian - ?
I am a voice
Crying in the wilderness.

What were they like Denise Levertov

Did the people of Viet Nam
use lanterns of stone?
Did they hold ceremonies
to reverence the opening of buds?
Were they inclined to quiet laughter?
Did they use bone and ivory,
jade and silver, for ornament?
Had they an epic poem?
Did they distinguish between speech and singing?

Sir, their light hearts turned to stone.
It is not remembered whether in gardens
stone lanterns illumined pleasant ways.
Perhaps they gathered once to delight in blossom,
but after their children were killed
there were no more buds.
Sir, laughter is bitter to the burned mouth.
A dream ago, perhaps. Ornament is for joy.
All the bones were charred.
it is not remembered. Remember,
most were peasants; their life
was in rice and bamboo.
When peaceful clouds were reflected in the paddies
and the water buffalo stepped surely along terraces,
maybe fathers told their sons old tales.
When bombs smashed those mirrors
there was time only to scream.
There is an echo yet
of their speech which was like a song.
It was reported their singing resembled
the flight of moths in moonlight.
Who can say? It is silent now.

Another poem by Denise Levertov |here

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