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And Words Are All I Have

One More Yard is an EP (compilation of songs) commemorating 100 years since Armistice Day. The project chronicles the sacrifice of young World War One soldiers and also aims to raise awareness of today’s war on cancer. The EP features Cillian Murphy, Brian Eno, Sinead O’Connor, Ronnie Wood, Nick Mason and Imelda May.

The brilliant Sinead O'Connor sings the heartwrenching title track One More Yard here

when the whistle breaks this trance
I'll see my friends take their last chance
and we know there’s no return
our hopes in this hole will burn
but now I can see
little children play upon green hills far, far away
our girls, our mums, our friends
i can see their tears
they know our end
for now our time has come
and only god survives man’s gun.

grey ghosts now drifting by
oh, i can hear their lonesome cries
and this battle now is over for all my friends,
all gone and died
this war’s so hard
i can’t go on one more yard.

Remembering Them.

A poet honors her big brother.

Ray at 14

Bless this boy, born with the strong face
of my older brother, the one I loved most,
who jumped with me from the roof
of the playhouse, my hand in his hand.
On Friday nights we watched Twilight Zone
and he let me hold the bowl of popcorn,
a blanket draped over our shoulders,
saying, Don’t be afraid. I was never afraid
when I was with my big brother
who let me touch the baseball-size muscles
living in his arms, who carried me on his back
through the lonely neighborhood,
held tight to the fender of my bike
until I made him let go.
The year he was fourteen
he looked just like Ray, and when he died
at twenty-two on a roadside in Germany
I thought he was gone forever.
But Ray runs into the kitchen: dirty T-shirt,
torn jeans, pushes back his sleeve.
He says, Feel my muscle, and I do.

~~Dorianne Laux

My paternal grandparents 001

Pictured are my father's parents, Robert and Katherine McCallum, in Glasgow circa 1915... just before my grandfather went off to fight in the First World War.

Robert McCallum and his five brothers all fought there in various capacities. My grandfather, sadly, was subjected to mustard gas on the battlefield in France (although it had been outlawed) and died at home in Scotland shortly thereafter. Only two of his brothers returned. My grandmother meanwhile handled the home and cared for the many children but, sadly, only survived her husband by two years: Broken hearts take lives along with war.

I love their confidence in this photo, their sense of occasion, the equality between them that is so apparent. I wish I had known them. I wish I could tell them how proud they make me, here, in Canada, 100 years later, in a life of such freedom they could not comprehend.

From the scant stories I've scraped together (my father spoke very little about his family or his time at sea throughout the war), I learned my grandmother was very independent and ran her own small business in Glasgow. My grandfather was a born storyteller and from accounts the soul of generosity. I'm sure they had faults too, but sweetly these never made it into the few stories I have of them.

I thank you, Katherine and Robert, for all that you did, all that you were.

All that you gave of yourselves with open hearts and hands.


A poem I wrote after I saw this photo of young Canadian soldiers
on their way to the horrific battle at Vimy Ridge...

They are packed shoulder to shoulder in the back of the truck
The oldest of those pictured might be 22.
The photographer has asked for a wave
As they head out to the front that bright April morning.
He needs to bear witness back home.
And they oblige, graciously,
No artifice or ego in their response,
Blithe of spirit, light of heart,
Knowing not what lay ahead.

Their spontaneous eruption of solidarity
Captured here,
A thing of unvarnished beauty.
Canadians all, together for the first time
In ways unimagined,
There to get the job done,
And then head home to
Welcoming parades,
Sweethearts and
Young marriages,
And if luck is with them
A job at the local Co-Op.

This commanding piece by Stephen Spender is one I revisit often, its last line
stealing my breath each and every time.

The Truly Great

I think continually of those who were truly great.
Who, from the womb, remembered the soul’s history
Through corridors of light, where the hours are suns,
Endless and singing. Whose lovely ambition
Was that their lips, still touched with fire,
Should tell of the Spirit, clothed from head to foot in song.
And who hoarded from the Spring branches
The desires falling across their bodies like blossoms.

What is precious, is never to forget
The essential delight of the blood drawn from ageless springs
Breaking through rocks in worlds before our earth.
Never to deny its pleasure in the morning simple light
Nor its grave evening demand for love.
Never to allow gradually the traffic to smother
With noise and fog, the flowering of the spirit.

Near the snow, near the sun, in the highest fields,
See how these names are fêted by the waving grass
And by the streamers of white cloud
And whispers of wind in the listening sky.
The names of those who in their lives fought for life,
Who wore at their hearts the fire’s centre.
Born of the sun, they travelled a short while toward the sun
And left the vivid air signed with their honour.

~~ Stephen Spender

to accompany my vets poem
Stone Seas

that hold your ship
to its course dead
into the gunfire
ahead, a course
charted long before
on stone paper, with
a stone channel
for the ship to go
into battle with its
own stone Operation
Order, there is no
changing the sea
and little chance
of changing the Order
and you, what are you
but stone too, your
binoculars clasped
in your tight hands
while the bright flowers
of war engrave
the skies above you.

~~ Keith Wilson

let it begin

I am here, listening. Share your own stories with me, gentle reader.
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