Poem ‘Another Day in Helmand’

Another Day in Helmand

He joined willingly
and has no complaints.
This is the life he chose.
He signed on the dotted line

knowing the score from day one;
about the low rates of pay
and the invisible enemy
who won’t play by the rules.

And show me where they said
all the equipment would be there,
that it would be all up to date.
There were benefits, too;

he was lauded several times by
flying visits of premiers and ministers,
who stood squinting in the sun
praising his courage, his skill,

in the best army in the world.
Yes, the cause was just,
his presence there directly protected
those he loved back home:

Our freedom, our democracy.
Yes, it was tough but he knew
he would have a trade,
something to contribute,

something solid to show
for his service to a grateful country,
plus a good pension to fall back on.
Now, not everyone has that.

I saw him the other day
admiring poppies in the sun,
to the clatter of pans and plates,
the warming sounds of Sunday lunch.

He’d been reading the paper
and that’s where I saw the
map of Helmand province
thrusting up into that rugged land,

where his life was changed
and such medals were won โ€“
and where his legs were lost.

poem and image ยฉ copyright df barker 2012

* first published in poetry collection ‘Anonymous Lines’, which can be found at amazon.com

38 thoughts on “Poem ‘Another Day in Helmand’

  1. Hi David, such a sad poem, but really beautiful, the poppies…
    it must be hard being a veteran, and even more so if at home no one gives you appreciation. My father fought 3 and a half year in a forgotten war that he would never talk about. It had left him with some emotional scars,of course, but no one cared in those days.
    Helmand, you hear about it, but a poem like this makes it real.

    I have Anonymous Lines now on my Amazon wishlist ๐Ÿ™‚


  2. Thank you very much Ina!
    Can I ask which war your father fought in? Would it be WW2? I knew people the same, from WW1 and 2 who would never speak of it.


  3. The war in the East-Indies (Indonesia) (Politioniele Acties it is called) before East Indies became independend, he was there 1945-1948 in the navy after a training in England. The Germans hadn’t even left all here when he went, aged 19. What happened, I am not sure, but he and his mates always kept silent.


  4. Oh, I see. We are so ‘anglo-centric’ here, we (or I!) forget that Holland had a great empire too. Yet, what real benefit did such empires give your country and mine? I think the lasting things are cultural – when I first went to Amsterdam, my fondest memory was eating Indonesian food, flavoured with peanut sauce!๐Ÿ™‚


  5. David

    This is an amazing poem! It really brought home to me everything about the war in Afghanistan, or any war for that matter.

    I do find it strange how we are so shocked and horrified every time young soldiers are repatriated after being lost or return horrifically injured from Afghanistan. I guess it’s because we have the media available nowadays to portray the horror of war, whereas in my father’s day the scale of the horrors was just witnessed by those close to the action and it is only when I see films of WW1 and 2 that I realise wht my father was among; though he was at sea in the Merchant Navy and saw many ships go down. He, for some reason escaped two ships the very journey before they were bombed.

    This is a truly raw and painful poem about the reality of war.



  6. Very good, I’m reading ‘Heroes’ at the moment. Modern war poetry chosen by among others Carol Ann Duffy. Written by the troops, the families and wives. Its a difficult one, the real versions and more apposite than some of the WW1 poetry at the moment.

    I’ve written a few myself, maybe I’ll post one or two later.



  7. Please accept my apology for my comment on “boats”.It was not my intention to make a light of your talents.If I have offended you in the slightest please forgive my obvious ignorance.
    “Another Day in Helmand”states the reasons why young men and woman are drawn to war and the overwhelming tragedy that is a result of combat.
    If you are interested there is a very good book entitled “The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill”


  8. what goes inside a soldiers head and heart no one knows…once you have walked on the battle field it changes you…
    every thing they get in return i wish peace was part of it….
    what a wonderful poetry David

    AT THE BOOK SIGNING- the poetry/product description
    Its another marvelous piece๐Ÿ™‚


  9. Christine, thank you very much! Yes, war has become such a part of so-called civilisation but is the biggest threat to it – there’s irony for you. And yes, the number of casualties is lower now but as you say, one is still too many.


  10. No offence at all taken, I can assure you!๐Ÿ™‚ I am just grateful that you read it! Thank you so much and thank you for pointing out the book, too.


  11. Thank you once again Victoria, I’m grateful that you read this one again! Perhaps I should enter d’verse regularly, but I never seem to get around to it!


  12. Hi,
    Very sad, but I love the way you have written this poem. My father was in WW 2 (Australian) and he never talked about what he saw, so very sad that we seem to have wars still in different parts of the world.


  13. Thank you very much Mags – you know, the Australian and NZ contribution, in fact sacrifice, during WW1 and 2 should be much better known in GB.


  14. I totally agree.
    I don’t think the full history is taught in a lot of schools and unless people read about WW 1 and 2 they wouldn’t really know that much about it at all.


  15. in reply to your reply: ๐Ÿ™‚ Sateh saus yummie! That is one thing my father learnt to cook there – nasi goreng!


  16. Powerful poem, David and so relevant for our times. True, there is no knowing how such situations will end but I can’t think of a positive ending in terms of the individuals and how they continue on with their lives. I love the way your story slowly unfolds here with the abrupt crash at the end, it seems fitting. Very well-crafted.


  17. Such a strong write! Thank goodness for the men and women from all walks of life who are willing to sacrifice much for the greater good of mankind. And I include artists in the ones who make sacrifices in order to make life better for the rest of us๐Ÿ™‚


  18. And they call that one “The Good War”, don’t they? Very fitting tribute (more accurate than most) to an honorably maimed and honorably retired old soldier! Thank you for this honest method of showing proper respect for his sacrifice and his efforts.


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