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by James Graham 

Posted: 02 February 2010
Word Count: 104

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At the first explosions
and the first flames
the mother decided
to take the children
and their dog to the shelter.
She led the boy by the hand
and carried the little girl
downstairs and outside

Their next step was into fire

The dog danced round

Steps are taken: the villains
are arrested at their ministries,
and brought to justice. I hear
the evidence, and sum up.
I say, ‘You are condemned’.
My sergeant has a shotgun
that fires thistledown.


Forehead to chin is a soft wet scrapheap. Someone has taken
a handful of meat scraps and pressed them into his face.

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Comments by other Members

FelixBenson at 14:57 on 03 February 2010  Report this post
I like this very much, James. Very thought-provoking - the tone (deceptively simple) and especially the final image, elusive and suggestive - a slippery image. Thisledown is soft and protects the thistle. It suggests to me either something like 'the villians in their ministries' aren't the the only perpetrators of the violence...or maybe something wider about volience. Violence begets violence, or something smiliar.

I get the feeling that this was provoked by a specific recent event - but one which tells a story that has happened many times, because the language of this poem is eternal and not specific.

I shall have a ponder and comment further. Thanks for posting this interesting poem.


FelixBenson at 09:20 on 05 February 2010  Report this post
Hi James

I didn't quite get the meaning of thistledown, but maybe it was just me - not that I understand what you were aiming for it makes a lot of sense. It might be very clear to other readers. I certainly think it is a very effective image.


The question is, how can a poem have the same impact as a photo?

The poem you have added has a lot of impact and is extremely visual (and visceral). There is nothing detracting from the image of the soldiers face - which makes it just like a photograph.

I suppose the advantage of a poem is that if the metaphor is right that it can stay in the mind longer than a visual image, which has greater immediate impact, but fades.

V`yonne at 12:38 on 06 February 2010  Report this post
I read and reread that first one, James. I took the thistledown to mean there can be no adequate rertribution for such an act. The mother makes the poem instantly wider in context and the idea that justice is dealt summarily at the end perhaps in each of our minds on;y is very effective. I liked the structural use of that gap in the middle - the lull to take it all in, the silence in death, the dancing dog. I think the dog adds to the tagic and the softness of thistledown is a wonderful contrast to the harsher images - perhaps a greater silence in the aftermath.

'Soldier' is I think an image that will stick with me a while! I'm having stewing steak for dinner tonight. It's in the slow cooker now. I could smell it as I read this...

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