Ian Hammond

Old Wicker Chairs

The old wicker chairs still sit next to the hearth.
Broken, dirty, discarded in almost,
But not quite, the same old way.
This time with a little more anguish,
A little more despair, a lot more loss.
Thrown about like rag dolls.

Still, I remember like yesterday,
The days where we warmed those chairs.
A bottle of whiskey between us,
Your mouth always reciting,
And my ears always devouring.

The sounds, the smells, the fears and tears.
I learned from those talks what war truely is;
What it means to be a man.
The meaning of family. Of a lost way of life,
Of twenty three generations now past.

Outside the hounds howled, and the wind snarled-
Or something like that. And still, we sat.
You had stories of youth, and I could taste it,
I'd swear I could. The salt, the sand,
The stench overwhelmingly of death and destruction.
The words of the story were already etched in my mind,
But I had to hear again.

That is what was lost over those twenty three generations-
The patience to repeat the story again.
For the thousandth time, with the same enthusiam.
Between the bottle and the passion I was in heaven.
I could almost forget that the end was already near.
And I learned what patience means.

Sitting in those chairs, passing the bottle,
I remember too, the dark nights.
When the hounds howled and the wind snarled.
When the end was nigh, and life was black.
Your words then were hardly a mumble.
The english had been lost, to be replaced,
Some ancestor perhaps was guiding your tongue.
The french stumbled out clumbsily,
Broken, battered, as dated as the old brigade
(Of which I had only stories and whiskey to recall)
All those years before.

On those nights you would tell me things to learn;
How my dear old Grandmama was an angel-
How she had saved your life, and you hers.
In those days I did not blame you,
When memory faltered and failed.
When my dear Grandmama was in fact, an angel.
'Les ange du mon couer'.
To quote a wise old man, sitting in a wicker chair,
Pulled next to the fire,
Only a bottle shared to fend off death.
In those nights I learned what piety was.
What true love meant, to a man who had it all.

Then the days all you could recall was the lost lives.
Three brothers in the ground, below the skies of Paris,
All lost for something that recent generations had,
For the most part, forgotten or discarded.
These were the nights when I learned what sacrifice means.
To see you there, broken, crippled and crying for them.
You see, I realize now, that it was never about you.
That is what it really means to be a man.

Je rappelé alors comment, sous le ciel de Paris,
Les Anges ont chante pour toi.
For life lived and passion lost.
Age did then, what German bullets and shells never could-
It took away my dear old Grandpapa.

Sitting now, in those old wicker chairs,
I swill this bottle of whiskey and savour the taste,
Of warm memories on those nights were,
In our northern corner of the world
The hounds howl and the wind snarls.
Where a wise old man once taught me what it means to be a man.

Poem Submitted: Wednesday, February 10, 2010

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