I write this as a reflection on what it might have been like for my Great-Uncle James Travis, who on this date 100 years ago, would find himself and his battalion, Manchester Regiment, 11th Battalion, in the trenches along the Somme.
As the sun set, in a glorious showing of deep, majestic red,
the darkness fell upon the earth, and soon the night erupted,
men huddled down, hugging the earth, like a lover in bed,
heavily breathing, the air filled with the stench of the unwashed.
The night brought the demons, their fears came alive,
gripping at hearts as yet unbroken, praying silently into the sky.
The wait was the hardest, never knowing when or where,
that one would come, bearing the names of those called.
In the silence, listening, watching, wondering,
dreams of family, children playing in the green fields,
dappled with poppies, that grow peacefully along the hills.
The dark is broken by a sudden cold light,
shining on broken ground, revealing humanity’s folly.
No fields of green, no children playing, only torn bodies,
souls seeking that peace, the one passing all understanding.
The illusion lives, that this will be the finale, the final curtain,
to find that is only true for the dead, who lay in mud.