Requiem for the Living

A poem dedicated to the veterans of the Borneo campaign 1962-1966 and all the other small forgotten wars.




And as they stand hymn book in hand

Around memorial stone

Each part of the congregation

Yet each of them alone


They all have their memories

Of comrades they once knew

Their own unique experience

Memories clear and true


Theirs was just a small war

No charging in great mass

But creeping around from tree to tree

Or wading through morass


Their bodies hung with leeches

Watching out for snakes

Where a man can die from mosquito fly

Or the simplest of mistakes


Of sleeping on a jungle floor

In the monsoon rain

Of wondering will he ever

See his home again


And then the short sharp action

All over very fast

But the screams still haunt his dreams

And will until the last


He is just an old man now

Bright eyed but weak of frame

Who was never hailed a hero,

Who never courted fame


Who fought for what he thought was right

And willingly he went forth

To simply fight for freedom

And all that freedom’s worth


© pronto 2020
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Very descriptive with vivid clarity. You prefer rhyming poetry, and it’s skilfully done here. But, with serious subjects like this with strong even personal messaging, I agree though with David (Bozz) when he once admitted it is hard to achieve “gravitas” with rhyme, and this might be a case in fact? But, you’ve presented a specific type of warfare and experience well here with all it would involve. Many old timers alone in the corner of pubs could tell of personal heroic deeds, but the emotional aftermath often makes them unduly humble and inwardly pensive instead. Fine read and tribute.


On re-reading Joshua, the reduced use of rhyme does work more effectively in keeping a fine flow of structure without compromising the seriousness of the message; Tell, I couldn’t find on here or in your archive. I suppose this shorter repeated rhyme comes over a bit like a limerick, even if not intended.

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