AJ Reid

Notes from the Paradise Peninsula

Category: Poetry

Visiting Ypres at 13 Years Old

Monday marked the 100th anniversay of the start of the “third battle of Ypres”: Passchendaele.  This poem and piece of music is my tribute to all those who died in the trenches.  Sent over the top as fodder to the Maschinengewehrs, often packed with amphetamines to quell their terror, some as young as 13 years old, raced and palpitated towards a lonely, painful death in the mud and barbed wire of No Man’s Land.

I remember the atmosphere on the coach heading towards the trenches we were due to visit on the first day of our week-long school trip: laughing, play-fighting, general high spirits.  The mood upon our return to the bus was silent shock.  No-one spoke to each other: we just filed back on to the bus and sat in our seats in silence until one boy burst into floods of tears.  No-one laughed at him because most felt the same way, including myself.

It felt as if some kind of shadow had crept into my young bones or gas into my unsullied lungs.  Some of the lungs and hearts were only the same age as ours when they had been stilled by a machine gun round or a cloud of gas.  They had ceased to be people: used only as meat.  I was horrified then and I’m no less horrified now.  Their training, physical condition, intelligence or raw bravery made no difference to their chances of survival once they went over the top.  They might as well have been stepping off the edge of the world, launching themselves into a cold, airless vacuum.

I’m not sure if my History teachers intended the trip to have this effect, but I set about learning why these boys had been hurled into a meat grinder in the way that they were.  What I discovered has led to a lifelong mistrust of hierarchy, a hatred of propaganda and a yearning for meritocracy and diplomacy.  How’s the fight going, you ask?  Turn on the TV, read a newspaper or click on social media.  Depressing, right?  Nodding your head solemnly at remembrance ceremonies doesn’t make you patriotic and is not going to prevent this happening again.   I’ve marched in enough remembrance parades at Hamilton Square to realise this.   Diplomacy, intelligent research/debate and a refusal to be drawn to our basest instincts would be of much more use.  Although, when I posited this to a newspaper editor, he told me that any newspaper selling virtue over scandal would fold within a week.

War is big business.  Don’t ever underestimate how cruel humans can be when they are corrupted by money/power.  Let’s all keep fighting the warmongers, instead of each other.

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Upload

When I’m gone and turned to dust,
You’ll still click my link, I trust,
Give us a like or even a love,
I’ll be watching from above,
If creation truly be not a sin,
Maybe my uploads will get me in?

Followers come and followers go,
Like lovers you never really know,
Unless they too have uploaded theirs,
And put in order their affairs,
So that they can also live forever,
By seeding clouds with their endeavour,
Hoping there might come a rain,
To drop them back to earth again,
If only to give a vague idea,
Of what it meant when they were here.

Will doc files cleanse the streets,
And bring on revolution?
Bedroom wavs rock halls of power,
Halting executions?
Will jpegs of outstanding worth,
Become like stained-glass,
Worshipped by some hipster,
Still talking out of his arse?

But what happens when,
The wind blows again,
And we all take shelter below?
If we survive,
Will we be deprived,
Of the things that we love and know?
If the cloud blows away,
And the authorities say,
That it was always our decision,
We submitted and signed,
We’ll become deaf and blind,
Under a deluge of derision,
Incision and division bells,
Silencing the voices,
That scream against the toughened glass,
Of gilted Rolls-Royces.

Take your books below with you,
And cherish all your vinyl,
So that if the cloud should fall as rain,
Your ecstasy won’t be final.

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Echo Chamber

Goodnight, my love,
Sleep well in your chamber,
See you in a while,
You’ll be in no danger,
From the voice that dares ask,
Any question at all,
To the strong and the stable,
Of their thirst for our thrall.
Goodnight, my love,
Your skin has grown paler,
Behind the chamber’s glass,
You’ve become your own jailer,
Closing the hatch,
On your reverberant hole,
You settle comfortably into the role,
And a tear of mine drops to the floor,
While stiff regret haunts my jaw.
Enjoy your cocktails of blood,
And the inevitable flood,
Of warmth in your veins,
As you calmly peruse,
Systematic abuse,
As long as no-one complains,
Of secrets and lies,
Where the dead go to live,
When their sympathy dies.
Through the chainmail I hear,
An echo of you,
Through the telegraph wire,
And the turn of the screw,
From the sky up above,
To the sinner below,
A picture is painted,
That he’ll never know.
Goodnight my love,
This is the last time I’ll come,
The chamber’s cold glass,
Has turned my lips numb.
Goodnight, my love,
I will cherish our time,
But I am no longer yours,
And you, no longer mine.
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An experiment in combining poetry, music and film: three things by which I have been besotted since I first experienced them.  I’m no film-maker, but editing these public domain clips into something that vaguely makes sense was really satisfying, somehow.  I’m used to working with words and music, mostly, but working with the visual felt amazing.  All three combined might be a bit like having all your favourite food on one plate: individually they taste good, but mashed together not so much, which is why I’m emphasising that this is only an experiment.  The soundtrack is fairly ambient with bluesy lap steel over the top.  I’ve been learning how to play that for a while, which has been great fun and has opened up some new musical horizons for me.

As far as the subject matter goes, it’s a little bit patriotic and it’s a little bit existential.  Best if you find your own interpretation.

Any feedback is welcome, good or bad.  Hope you get something out of it.

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Get Some Free Poetry Down You

My latest poem FOXHUNTER, inspired by the current epidemic of psychopathy amongst the more privileged members of our society.

 

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