Scenes on the Muses' Cutting Room Floor

Shields used as stretchers for faceless soldiers.
The chariot of fever drawing rutted tracks
through the wounded and leaving a trail of pus.

Let our men die in the glory of sudden death.

Any sign of native civilisation, bravery or piety.
Tributes to other gods. The world their dead
move into when the battle is lost for them.

Let them die again in an ignored underworld.

Most of the women – from the soft hand
of a soldier’s wife raising her children abroad
to the snowy white arm wound like a catapult.

Let us keep the rapes, though - they’re a metaphor.

About the poem

This poem was published in October 2016 and is featured on The Literateur website.

It was written as part of my MA Dissertation in which I examined the physical and culture clash between native Britons and Romans in Ancient Britain. This particular poem came from my frustration at the continuing presentation of both the glory of war and violence against women. The poem lists aspects of war not presented in patriotic literature and jingoistic, war-crazy films and offers up the cynical authorial voice which chooses to edit the truth to make it acceptable. The end of this poem is deliberately brutal to accentuate my continuing frustration that violence against women is, in all narratives, presented casually. It is part of literary and commercial fiction as a standard trope, the subject of what are considered “cosy” Sunday night crime series. Whatever else the Establishment may choose to conceal or reveal about any number of atrocities, there seems no need to hide violence against women, which if it is justified at all, is done so in a very lazy and dismissive manner. I rewrote this poem several times and in the end decided not to try to hide my contempt for the circumstance.