Michael Shepherd

Rookie (8.4.1929 / Marton, Lancashire)

0121 4 A.M.11 November 1918 - Poem by Michael Shepherd

A still night; crescent moon; the faintest breeze.
Some wit might say, 'Peaceful, innit, Tommy? '
Two hours before the usual time for attack.
I wonder what they've got up their sleeve for today.
A bit too quiet right now, I'd say

Careful how you breathe or talk
this chilly night, out there in the open trench;
frozen breath will draw the sniper's rifle sight

The sharp nose of some human terrier
passing over the familiar smells -
cordite, rifle oil, linseed for the wooden butt, the stench of death,
yesterday's corpses half submerged -
may detect, just over there, the unmistakeable smell
of fierce French 'Caporal' cigarettes;
there in front, strong German 'Zeppelins';
round here, cheap Woodbines linger in the air

hardly a human difference
worth fighting over.


Comments about 0121 4 A.M.11 November 1918 by Michael Shepherd

  • (3/28/2006 9:32:00 AM)


    I love good war poems! Brilliant work, Michael! (Report) Reply

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  • (2/14/2006 12:47:00 PM)


    Near perfection! You have succeeded in blending the horror of war with the humanity of mankind. How alike we are in our addicitions, and how painful war really is. Great work. (Report) Reply

  • (11/16/2005 1:52:00 AM)


    This is very powerful, mainly through two elements: the brutal irony of having to be 'Careful how you breathe or talk.' Almost six decades earlier than this episode, my great great grandfather took a bullet in the face because a Missouri Home Guarder saw the steam from his morning coffee. That's fate being just too cruel, even if he was fighting for the wrong side.
    Another really effective aspect was the specific, esoteric smells - 'cordite [I love that you didn't settle for 'gunpowder'], rifle oil, linseed' making a transition into the smell of decomposition. That the corpses smell alike and the only noted difference is in the smell of their cigarettes is brilliant.
    (Report) Reply

  • Ernestine Northover (11/11/2005 2:42:00 PM)


    Extremely moving poem Michael, put together so well, a poignant reminder of the First World War, worth many a read, this one. Loved it immensely. It's going nto my favourites list. Sincerely Ernestine (Report) Reply

  • (11/11/2005 2:37:00 PM)


    A nice touch Michael. The humanity, the grit and a reality. Thank you. (Report) Reply

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Poem Submitted: Friday, November 11, 2005

Poem Edited: Friday, July 14, 2006


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