Poem ‘Safe Distance’

Trench Warfare, General Conditions: A party of...

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Safe Distance

Another old soldier who never speaks.
Sitting stiffly in braces and polished leather,
his medals left in bric-a-brac drawers

with sovereigns and half crowns,
concealing the nugget –
the tale worth telling from this safe distance.

A story of a corporal who carried
a limp subaltern from no man’s land
to safety through a Belgian quagmire.

Lieutenant Turnbull was a right bastard,
but no point in resentment or fear
when a bullet could tear through your head

at any time. Simply had to do it and get on.
His blank eyes, though still blue,
cannot disguise the bare brown soul,

like the pounded landscape, the kit bag
he carries around everywhere.
Until the lights go out.

© copyright df barker 2012
First published in poetry collection ‘Anonymous Lines’, available at amazon.com



  1. magsx2 · February 23, 2012

    Great poem, I felt I was there with the solider, and understood what he was thinking, a very good choice of the photo as well.


  2. dfb · February 23, 2012

    Thank you very much, Mags – my very best wishes to you.


  3. granbee · February 23, 2012

    Outstanding poem in how totally it captures the experience of carrying a mortally wounded soldier out of the battle lines–and doing so in relatively few lines! The photo also facilitates your message here quite effectively.


  4. dfb · February 23, 2012

    Yes, I thank you so much Granbee – I used to know someone (years ago) who fought in the ‘Great War’ and this is how he looked, blue eyes full of colour but his soul looked dead, somehow. Little wonder perhaps, considering the nightmares many of them went through and never forgot. I’m grateful to you.


  5. mommywritervkent · February 24, 2012

    As always… A splendid piece of work. Id like to extend an invite to you to be a guest poetry blogger on my blog/website. Love your poetry!


  6. Soma Mukherjee · February 24, 2012

    David this is brilliant , loved the title of the post yes it is easy saying a lot of things when in safety and/or comfort of home…and the poem is so powerful
    I have people in my family serving in Army i know what it does ..and you have told the tale so beautifully..


  7. rangewriter · February 24, 2012

    Amazing. The thing about poetry, one never ever sees a typo in poetry. The words are to sparse, to carefully assembled for silly errors to slip in.


  8. Betty Hayes Albright · February 24, 2012

    David, you brought this scene to life – I could see it so vividly, the man’s face and demeanor. War does such horrid things….


  9. journeyintopoetry · February 24, 2012

    This is a fantastic poem David, so real in it’s feel.

    We found medals in a bric-a- brac drawer after my dad died and even found out that my grandad had been awarded an OBE! They all (from the first and second wars) kept their bravery so quiet, it’s very humbling to know that I think.



  10. susangeckle · February 24, 2012

    Terrific. You really captured what was going on beneath the stoic faces .I think people in general of that era were expected to be stoic, soldiers especially so.


  11. Three Well Beings · February 24, 2012

    You wouldn’t know this, David, but I’ve been commenting on other blogs (where related) of my sudden keen interest in WW I. Recent movies and a British series have sparked this interest. That’s just an aside…this is an incredible poem. “the bare brown soul”–wow! I find it really hard to share adjectives that do a poem like this justice, so I’ll just say it really moved me, and I feel a special connection, although I don’t think I ever knew a veteran of the Great War. I do believe we really are all connected, however, and your words make me feel that. Debra


  12. Sue Dreamwalker · February 24, 2012

    My Granfather fought in the Great War and came home wounded.. and I remember as a small girl seeing his medals.. but he would never speak about it.. No wonder when you know the horrors war inflicts..
    A Powerful poem.. Best wishes to you ~Dreamwalker


  13. Emma · February 24, 2012

    Hey David, war poetry and poetry on soldiers has a special place in my heart, so I love this. I’m especially fascinated by WWI and the men who served and made it through. It’s miraculous really that anyone did, it seems. Excellent portrait you’ve constructed here of the effects of war on the individual. Sad and somewhat haunting. You’ve really captured the difficultly of continuing the journey through life after enduring such an ordeal…medals left in bric-a-brac drawers…says so much.


  14. dfb · February 24, 2012

    Thank you so much! I would be honoured!


  15. dfb · February 24, 2012

    Soma, thank you, I always appreciate your comments, I am very grateful. I’ve been out today, so I’m trying to catch up!


  16. dfb · February 24, 2012

    Thank you so much, once again. I really do appreciate it.


  17. dfb · February 24, 2012

    Betty, thank you once again. It means a lot when you comment on my poems as you are such a fine poet!


  18. dfb · February 24, 2012

    Thank you Christine, I really appreciate it. An OBE? Good heavens, there must be so many untold stories.


  19. dfb · February 24, 2012

    Susan, I thank you! I really appreciate your comments.


  20. dfb · February 24, 2012

    Debra, you are so kind and I thank you! Yes, with the centenary coming up, it is now a time for us all to reflect on what this war meant. Disaster and tragedy are understatements. I share your interest, I hope your studies go well. Thank you!


  21. dfb · February 24, 2012

    Sue, I thank you! You are very kind. Yes, that war still casts strong ripples through our lives. Thank you!


  22. dfb · February 24, 2012

    Emma, thank you so much! I always appreciate your comments as you write some wonderful poems. Yes, this poem is mainly based on a true story about my wife’s grandfather.


  23. lscotthoughts · February 25, 2012

    David, Excellent poem conveying what most of us can only imagine~


  24. dfb · February 25, 2012

    Thank you so much once again!


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