Friendly Fire

“There are shadows being knitted by the needles of barbed wire…”

No longer clad in khaki
nor glinting medal,
but his blue-striped pyjamas.
He stumbles across the nightmare
of No Man’s Land.
The shell craters greet him
with gasping mouths,
wallowing in the mud.
His feet sink slowly
into the layers of bones and blood.
There are shadows being knitted
by the needles of barbed wire.
He knows them.
He sent them over the top
with a smile… a smile.

He jolts awake.
No mud, just a mattress.
Everything is as it should be;
his black suit is hung ready
for the Sunday service,
a poppy pinned to a pocket.
But its petals are flushed
with embarrassment,
eyes black with anger.
It turns its face to the wall.Friendly Fire
The No Man’s Land between us
explodes another hundred miles.
And the air burns with apprehension.

There was warning; the carrier pigeon
I sent, with one foot weighted,

The bombardment begins.
Words collect, stumble over the top
of my lips in shock, straining
the barbed wire defences
we had painstakingly erected
over the years, to protect ourselves
from each other.

I flee the front line,
half expecting you to follow
from your side.
I do not know how it ends.
Perhaps you will be the one
to break the stalemate?
We are both as stubborn.
No unconditional surrender on the horizon.

But, one day, I hope you will remember
the love buried beneath the blood and mud
and come to shake my hand,
friend, brother.

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