‘Looking at Myself in the Mirror in a Bathroom’ or ‘On War’
By Jack Verschoyle
“Sneak home and pray you’ll never know // the hell where youth and laughter go” – Siegfried Sassoon
That word – I have heard it on Radio 4*
in the lowest tones of the newsreaders.
So short, those lines, they can’t know war
When shrapnel hits a major organ, like an eye
Shooting a person. Anywhere. As long as they die
Disclose the syllables that we learnt so easily
in History and Dulce et Decorum Est**. Maybe
they sound better off tongues that don’t know war
The shelling of a maternity ward. Babies –
never born already dead inside dead mothers
– to live forever in eulogies and white roses
A homeless woman – I saw her on Hastings pier***.
For what debt do we undress her humiliation?
As if she were not weightless. The wheelchair,
that bumbling contraption, not her mobility anymore.
She travels in reverse. One leg full
The other cut short below the knee.
As if we cannot see the kind of sullied
flesh ageing under the bandages of free citizens
Hear these words from every waving hand.
Do I – do you – still need that whetstone?
Not better at all not better no no
* BBC Radio 4. A British radio channel, popular for news programmes.
** Dulce et Decorum Est. A popular war poem by Wilfred Owen.
*** Hastings. British seaside town and site of a famous medieval battle.
Jack Verschoyle studies Logic and Philosophy of Science at LMU in Munich. He is from Oxford in the UK. He speaks English, some French and even less German.