Poet's Corner

'Daddy, what did you do in...?'

In the History Wars

I was a Conscientious Objector.

It's difficult being non-combatant
especially for one trained to fight
(though usually serving on staff at HQ);
it's tempting to stand to at the keyboard,
mouse in belligerent hand, to parry and thrust
as with the bayonet in wars long ago.

'All Present and Correct'? Not on your Nellie!
Ill-concealed animus, errors and lies,
ulterior motives, anterior causes
unlikely conspiracies, claimed or implied,
blinkers enough for a race full of horses
the race card the overplayed ace in the hand.

But error and bias are scarcely the point;
it's the concept that counts, the purported cause:
the Nation, what it is and who for.
But since you cannot make fact from two fictions
then a nation's identity's always a myth
and myths are not history, though part of it always.

What we must learn from history is never so simple
as whom to blame what for and what to be proud of
it's as dense and surprising as our own human natures
unravelled, exposing to both pride and shame.
Wave, if you like, some flag you would fight for
but in this case I'm leaving my bayonet at home.


From The Tarnished Swan and Other Sardonic Pieces (2009)
by John Poynter, author of ASP title The Audacious Adventures of Dr Louis Lawrence Smith