Strange Meeting (after Wilfred Owen)

[This is a little different from my normal poems, but somehow Owen’s WWI poem ‘Strange Meeting’, in which a soldier confronts the enemy he killed, seemed a good starting point for a poem about the current refugee crisis. The rhyme structure and metre of the poem are Owen’s, and I’ve borrowed a few of his phrases. The irony, of course, being that while in Owen’s poem there was a sense in which both soldiers were in it together, in this poem it’s about the powerful being culpable for the deaths of the powerless]

 

It seemed that I had left the leafy shire,

And found myself on some forgotten shore

Of endless sands, where waves of time had welled

From far across the oceans of this world.

I walked along awhile, until I slipped,

And noticed then that countless bodies slept

As if they meant to catch the sun’s last rays

Of warmth. ‘Come on!’ I told them, ‘Rise!

Oh can’t you see you’re getting in my way!’

But still they lay, and so I asked them why

They did not move. And then at last, one stirred.

A tiny boy, who sprang right up and stared

With eyes that filled with tears of childish plea,

And in those eyes I saw not joy and play

But just a black and never-ending hole.

And by those eyes, I knew we stood in Hell.

His face, I saw, was marked with lines of fear,

And so I asked him ‘Boy, have you come far?’

‘From earth’, he said. ‘From this shared earth I came.

So tell me, is that some horrific crime?

Or do you think instead I should remain

And take the blame for wars that are not mine?’

I shrugged, but as I made to leave the scene,

He looked at me and said ‘I am your son,

Yet when you saw me knocking at your door,

You did not welcome me or call me dear,

Instead you named these people here a swarm.

The waves of war are fierce. I cannot swim.

And so, while politicians talked and droned,

I fell into the heartless sea and drowned.

Can you sleep now?’

 

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13 Comments to “Strange Meeting (after Wilfred Owen)”

  1. A powerful re-working, Elli . Sad times…

  2. This is beautiful. So powerful.

  3. Touched, good to see the joyous poet bring out one so heavy and deep. My heart goes out to all those people fleeing to Europe. May peace be with them.

  4. I just read you, some of your pieces for the first time today. This one is so moving and meaningful.

  5. This is a beautiful piece…the words are touching

  6. It is beautifully true. Very powerful. I loves reading it.

  7. Reblogged this on Gwendolynscomments and commented:
    Hehe. here comes my dark side

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