Bird’s Eye View
by Turkey Vulture, November 11, 2011
Greetings one and all. If you are sitting comfortably then I shall begin. This coming Friday (November 11th) is Veterans Day (Remembrance Day in Europe and Canada), and is rightfully regarded as a very important day for observance and commemoration. The actual day marks the anniversary of the end of hostilities in World War One or ‘The Great War’ (the so-called “War to end all Wars” - if only it had been), which took place specifically at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. It is not a day to celebrate victories but rather one to take a moment for remembrance of those who fought, and in many cases gave their lives, in that war and the many since so that our lives may be better today and in the future.
With this in mind, I will to forego my usual ‘chat and conversation’ and instead present a poem. These very moving words are entitled “Disabled”, a poem written in 1917 by World War One poet, Wilfred Owen, arguably the finest war poet of all. They express the tormented thoughts and recollections of a teenaged soldier in the Great War who has lost his limbs in battle and is now confined, utterly helpless, to a wheelchair. The subject contrasts the living death he is now facing with the youthful pleasures he had enjoyed "before he threw away his knees" and he goes on to recall the impetuous and frivolous circumstances in which he had joined up to fight in the war. He also notes how the crowds that greeted his return were smaller and less enthusiastic than those who cheered his departure, and how women no longer look at him but instead at "the strong men who were whole". In the opinion of many, it is one of the finest anti-war poems ever written.
“He sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark,
And shivered in his ghastly suit of grey,
Legless, sewn short at elbow. Through the park
Voices of boys rang saddening like a hymn,
Voices of play and pleasure after day,
Till gathering sleep had mothered them from him.
About this time Town used to swing so gay
When glow-lamps budded in the light blue trees,
And girl glanced lovelier as the air grew dim—
In the old times, before he threw away his knees.
Now he will never feel again how slim
Girl's waists are, or how warm their subtle hands.
All of them touch him like some queer disease.
One time he liked a blood-smear down his leg,
After the matches, carried shoulder-high.
It was after football, when he'd drunk a peg,
He thought he'd better join. He wonders why.
Someone had said he'd look a god in kilts,
That's why; and maybe, too, to please his Meg,
Aye, that was it, to please the giddy jilts
He asked to join. He didn't have to beg;
Smiling they wrote his lie: aged nineteen years.
Germans he scarcely thought of; all their guilt,
And Austria's, did not move him. And no fears
Of Fear came yet. He thought of jeweled hilts
For daggers in plaid socks; of smart salutes;
And care of arms; and leave; and pay arrears;
Esprit de corps; and hints for young recruits.
And soon, he was drafted out with drums and cheers.
* * *
Some cheered him home, but not as crowds cheer Goal.
Only a solemn man who brought him fruits
Thanked him; and then enquired about his soul.
Now, he will spend a few sick years in institutes,
And do what things the rules consider wise,
And take whatever pity they may dole.
Tonight he noticed how the women's eyes
Passed from him to the strong men that were whole.
How cold and late it is! Why don't they come
And put him into bed? Why don't they come?”
PS. Wilfred Owen was killed in action at the age of 25, on Nov 4th, 1918, a week before the war ended. Ironically, the telegram from the War Office announcing his death was delivered to his mother's home as her town's church bells were ringing in celebration of the Armistice, signaling the war’s end.
Public Service Announcements. Calendars and pens at the ready. #251. The ‘Occupy Hendy Woods’ movement of local folks is acting on their words and doing just that, starting on Friday, November 11th at 4pm and going all weekend in their efforts to save that majestic place for all of us to share and enjoy. It will be a time for info sharing, community networking, and discussion as they unite as one clear voice to save our park. The park will close forever in June 2012 if nothing is done to save it. Let's not let that happen! More details of the weekend’s activities are on the group’s Facebook page. #252. The vets from Mendocino Animal Hospital are back – they will be at The AV Farm Supply next Thursday, November 17th to be precise, from 2-3:30pm. They have asked me to inform you that you do not have to arrive early and then wait a long time. Everyone showing up at anytime before 3:30pm will be seen.
Be careful out there. May your god go with you. Let us prey. Very humbly yours, Turkey Vulture. PS. Contact me with words of support/abuse through the Letters Page or at email@example.com.