I was asked to produce a poem which combined ideas of the Nativity with 1914 – a tricky task if one wants to sound full of festive cheer. I played with the idea that men in 1914 surely did use the name of Christ, though perhaps not always in a positive manner. Anyway, this is how it came out. It was read at a Carol service earlier this week and I think people appreciated the scope and sentiment. However, I remain unsure about the title I gave the piece – titles are so often a tricky part of a poem’s puzzle for me.
Most men uttered the name Christ
in the December without end.
And that name was followed by a plea –
Make it stop or Don’t let it be me,
while some could find nothing more;
the name was all they had.
But in the blur of battle
prayers are hard to hear;
men died with Christ upon their lips.
A million lives became a kind of sacrifice
to all that we hold dear.
No gold for these men – only lead.
No frankincense or myrrh,
just the heady mix of cordite
and bitter iron blood.
That blood stained fields
but now we know that Belgian mud
could just as well be Afghan sand.
The name of Christ continues to be spoken
as men and women pass before their time.
Their tomorrow is our today;
let’s hope to God we find a better way.