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Niagara Falls
Saturday, December 2, 2023
A poem of remembrance
A computer image of a field of poppies. RICHARD HARLEY/MIDJOURNEY

Dr. William Brown
The Lake Report

This is based on Michael Winter’s, “Lest We Forget: Walking with the dead,” about the slaughter of the Newfoundland Regiment at Beaumont-Hamel. His piece appeared in the National Post, Nov. 8, 2014, .

The poem was also based on what my aunt shared with me of her husband’s story about his horrific experience in the Battle of the Somme, which he related to her when he was recuperating on leave in the U.K.

After he returned to France, he was killed, as were so many of his friends, in battles where there were no victors, Allied or German – just death. The poem is set early in the war when everyone was keen to enlist and few knew what to expect.

Most Often

We were boys from farms, villages and towns,
from Gaspe to Victoria, knit with kin and friends,
eager to get there, not miss out on this war,
for King and country,
we brothers and friends.

Too stunned to feel the blast or the bullet,
in hundreds, we fell,
whole regiments and more.
Some drowned in the ocean,
others killed in the sky.

And as we hung on barbed wire,
it wasn’t to God, King or country we cried.
But to our last breath and heartbeat,
to our mothers we cried,
till finally – we died.

Now long silent beneath rich farms we lay,
or in deep oceans – far from our homes.
A few bones, brass buttons and even some lead.
That’s all that’s left of the spring in our step.

What would we, the dead, now say to you, the living?
Most often – it would be about lost brothers and friends.

Amen to those veterans to whom we owe so much.

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