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War Artist 2: Battlefield at Ypres

after Paul Nash


Stretcher-bearers carry a wounded soldier

through a landscape of burnt tree stumps.

Autumn dawn beams a torch

on broken tracks, on pot-holed paths.


A driver stands knee-deep in mud

to crank his reluctant ambulance.

A weary figure bends

to irrigate a hopeless wound.


Daylight smears across livid sky.

Sleepers huddle against a fiendish wind,

wake to weigh their chances,

ache to survive another wretched day.


© Helen May Williams 2016
Written for and performed at Schubertiade 2014

Helen May Williams is a poet and author, living in West Wales. She has written extensively on twentieth-century poetry and formerly taught at the University of Warwick, where she was a founder member of the Warwick Writing Programme Advisory Board. She runs the Poetry Society’s Carmarthen-based Stanza group and is an active member of Penfro Poets. She recently completed a translation of Michel Onfray’s Before Silence (Avant le Silence), a volume of 21st century haiku. Her poems have appeared in numerous poetry journals and anthologies. Her poetry book, The Princess of Vix, is published by Three Drops Press.