Regret To Inform You: Eliza, March 1916

from imaginary conversations with my grandfather –

        a snapshot of my great grandmother, Eliza, and the horrors of war.


In her flint-walled cottage
your mother braces bowed shoulders
searches dresser drawers
retrieves her blacks, hands shaking.
Off the village green
the old church steeple trembles
in its timbers and reeded stone
bells tolling, cracked clock face stopped.

And still, across the Channel,
the maw-trenched killing fields continue
to open and swallow. Open and swallow.


© belcanto 2023
critique and comments welcome.
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Yes, the notice that comes so coldly, like bill or a summons.


I have read this many times; the rhythm is great but I particularly enjoy the use of alliteration and the hard consonantal beat. It really is very effective. Cracked clock face, searched dresser drawers… So natural. Congratulations. I have a tiny uneasiness in “your mother”. As if you are addressing a deceased soldier. Is it a prayer? I’m a coward and dissociate myself in poetry and would say “A mother”. Aside, a beautifully wrought, pithy piece. Should a critique be longer than the piece? Whatevs… The idea of the machine like ‘open and swallow’ works well.

Last edited 1 year ago by squiddlydee

I’m very pleased to be reading your work again. This was short but effective, with a bleak touch of realism thrown in for good measure. Liked the short, clean lines and the repeated last line sort of follows us home.



I can almost feel the tension, her despair and that forlorn future as she searches the drawer. So sad. sue.

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