PTSD’s End

I like Shelley.
His poem “Adonais” is an elegy on the death of John Keats. It is one of the great poems of the English language.
So, when I read of yet another suicide of a veteran I wrote this. After I finished I realised I was in Shelley’s debt.

wargraves
Commonwealth War Cemetery Singapore

PTSD’s End

Peace, peace, he does not sleep, he’s dead.
Released from all the horrors in his head;
No more in sleep will gunfire rattle him,
Nor faces of the dead unsettle him.
He dreams no more so must now be content,
For deep and dreamless sleep is heav’n sent.
Its darkness is the sweetest kindest balm
And in it troubled souls are free of harm.

Peace, peace, he does not sleep, he’s dead.
Released from all the terror and the dread;
The dead will visit him at night no more,
No sadness from a long-forgotten war.
The dreams have stopped that shook him in his bed
And tore around like thunder in his head.
The ghosts will have to find another haunt
And find some other poor sad soul to taunt.

Peace, peace, he does not sleep, he’s dead!

© Trevor Morgan, 29/6/2018

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And late at night with dread
He would lay down his head,
But deep within his mind
There was no rest to find.

For there in his deep sleep
A dreadful date he’ll keep
With phantoms of the mind
And they are most unkind.

Repeating on and on
Each past and dreamed of wrong;
Survivors can like sheep
Be dragged down in the deep

To depths of all despair
Choked like they have no air;
Writhe ‘n writhe in slumber
Goes on without number.

On and on each night
They face repeated fright
Of ghostly secret dread
Of what’s there in their head.

No rest can they now find
When troubled in their mind,
It’s known to me and thee
We say “PTSD”.

And years after a war,
It kills so many more.
So torn by all the grief
Death’s sought out for relief.

It quietens all the dread
There, in a troubled head
And peace is finally found;
When lowered in the ground.

© Trevor Morgan 28.6.2018

Notes:

Following The Falklands War and some other campaigns more of the veterans end by taking their own lives than were killed in action. They too are casualties of conflict. Oh, the pathos of wars!

I rarely use couplets, I find them jerky and lacking rhythmic flow. But as this came out in this form and I wrote it down in minutes this was how my Muse sent it to me.

Trudging through the mire

Euphemisms cover up screw ups and screw ups are a part of war.
We have “friendly fire” and “collateral damage” in recent times when people are killed in military blunders.
I remember an officer commenting on one such incident he said “Oh no, not another bloody balls up”. That was the idiom used in the Royal Navy in the early sixties.
We used euphemisms for copulating then (the unintended creating of life) not for the unintended ending of lives. Language use changes to suit the needs of the times.

under fire

Trudging through the mire

As we trudged through a slimy mire
We saw so far away
Flashes from some distant fire
And that would make our day.

The mud erupted up in front,
Some more spewed up behind.
Our language then became quite blunt,
God, were those gunners blind?

We hugged the mud now stained and red
And waited there to die;
Eternal moments filled with dread,
As Death then passed most by.

Why had this happened to a friend?
Why did he have to go?
It was a useless pointless end;
It was Fate’s fickle blow.

There some of us were chose by Fate;
Though we still don’t know why.
And some of us still seethe with hate,
And some of us still cry.

Most trudged on then from out the mire,
For most had got away.
But some still hear that “friendly fire”;
In flash backs to this day.

© Trevor Morgan 15.6.2018

Note:
The term “friendly fire” was not in use at the time of this incident but I use it for the tawdry need for a rhyme!

“An Honourable war”

Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz said U Boats had fought “An Honourable War”.
If that be the case then the word honourable must mean murderous. They sank ships and killed more than 3o,ooo people.
They used tactics like staying beneath life boats of survivors so they could sink rescue ships.
They failed because their opponents fought them with total aggression and total commitment.

Torpedoed

“An Honourable war”

Men talk of honour when they’ve done
Dire deeds men ought not do.
Who gives a damn who lost who won
When left bereaved to rue.

To rue the hand that Fate dealt out,
A future all turned bleak.
As Hope and Faith all fade to doubt
And strong resolves grow weak.

As plans once sure seem like a wraith
That haunts a doleful soul
That lingers past the end of Faith
And now does not feel whole.

Such “Honour’s” just a balm for those
Whose hands are all blood red.
The path they trod they freely chose
And they too will end dead.

But they were not cut down too soon
And so they ought feel shame.
When silhouettes cast by the moon
Helped periscopes to aim.

© Trevor Morgan, 16/6/2018

Note:

Doenitz, although a committed Nazi was not hanged at Nuremburg.
This was because his defence would have been he used the same tactic as the US Navy submarine campaign against Japan. This was an effective move. He was sentenced to 10 years prison. He died in 1980. Members of the Royal Navy attended his funeral, perhaps they were the honourable men.

Sonnet -The Kola Graveyard

Sailors in the Royal Navy can spin a good Yarn.
Tales told of the Arctic convoys are the most cruel of all. Worse still these tales are dark, disastrous and TRUE.
Some escorts were lost within sight of Murmansk and crews froze to death in the waters of the north

Arctic Convoy001

Sonnet -The Kola Graveyard

The waters of the North are cold and wild.
Ice may form there upon the upper decks
Of ships that ventured there from climes more mild.
The sea’s floor there is littered with sad wrecks
For one by one, small ships died in the fight.
Yet in death they secured the rise of hope,
Though u-boats struck with all their stealth and might,
Despite each loss these escorts were to cope.
Of those destroyed there on this icy sea
As they brought aid to that beleaguered land
That fought with them that Europe might be free
Of tyrannies some Nazi filth had planned.
And many men who ventured through that cold
Were marked by fate so they would not grow old.

© Trevor Morgan, 13/6/2018

From: “Arctic Elegies”

Able Seaman White (dec’d)

A sailor died on a distant shore long ago.
He is still remembered.
Remembered by an old sailor who should have stood where he stood that day on the shore of Borneo.

DrownedSailor002

 

Able Seaman White (dec’d)

As the stars in the firmament gleam
In the arch of the sky of the night.
There comes the repeated sad dream
Of a dead able seaman called White.

I sat up with a jerk in the night,
Saw a man that I’d seen long before,
The ghost of the seaman called White
Who died by a rock pool by the shore.

And he called me again by my name,
Like he’d done many times here before.
The same words he then said again
He had said before going ashore.

“I must thank you for what you have done
Because really it does mean a lot”.
He’d wanted to walk in the sun,
And he just didn’t know he’d be shot.

And his star in the firmament gleams
In the velvety darkness of night,
For he still exists in my dreams;
Does that dead able seaman called White.

At long distance there through a gun’s sight,
He was seen as he stood by the shore.
A bullet was launched on its flight
And he felt a slight jar – nothing more.

The sensation was then receding,
Though all seemed like it had been before.
He wondered who could be bleeding,
All that blood by the pool by the shore.

Now in life he had drawn the short straw.
There was little more of him to tell.
Red coloured the pool by the shore,
As he lay where he staggered and fell.

Now the stars in the firmament gleam
In the inky dark blackness of night,
For he’s long sapped my self-esteem ,
Has that dead able seaman called White.

Sun was bright as his day had grown dim,
When he lay there in it’s bright light.
As darkness closed in around him
And his day had been turned into night.

I remember that man here before.
How he fell from the shot of a gun.
Right there by the pool by the shore
Where he died in the tropical sun.

I remember the man of his name,
Swapping duties with me just before
A gunner had taken his aim
Where I should have stood by the shore!

And his star in the firmament gleams
As his ghost comes to visit at night,
And he talks to me in my dreams,
That forgotten dead seaman called White.

Yes in life he had drawn the short straw,
But his story is being retold;
Red colours the pool by the shore,
In the dreams of a man who’s grown old.

He says “Thank you for what you have done
And I swear that it does mean a lot.
That I have now got me someone,
Yes – got someone – who has not forgot!”

Now the night’s long and sleepless once more,
All the stars in the firmament gleam.
Waves lap by the pools by the shore;
When not sleeping I don’t have to dream!

© Trevor Morgan, 1997, amended 29/5/2018

From: “Saga of Sabah”
Published in Sabah, Malaysia.

The Landing

In a conflict decades ago there were many landings, both by air and by sea.
Most times things went well sometimes not.
I remember being issued with charts written in Dutch for us to follow.
That was interesting.
What I do remember is mud, deep sticky mud, far worse than the mud at Weston Super Mare.

 

The Landing

The craft all lay out from the bay
Filled with men prepared for a fight.
They’d stayed there all yesterday
And rode the waves most of the night.

Their crews were well used to the swell
And waited for orders to come.
Soldiers were feeling unwell,
Seasickness had left them all dumb.

The craft slewed and reared in the swell
White faces were wet with the spray,
Of their thoughts no one could tell,
As craft lay off the far shore.

When crewmen ate up their ration
Some soldiers had puked on the deck.
Faces so grey and ashen
Each had his equipment to check.

The diesels had thrummed through the night
As craft lay off the far shore.
Throttles were opened with might
And thrums had turned to a roar.

The craft slewed and reared in the swell
White faces were wet with the spray,
Each in his own secret hell
And tensed for the work of the day.

The craft all as one made a turn,
Bow waves churned up to white crests.
Their wakes made great plumes at the stern
And their hearts beat hard in their chests.

The tracers lit up the east sky
And star shells burst over the shore.
Yet none of them there asked “why?”;
The diesels continued to roar.

The craft slewed and reared on the swell
White faces were wet with the spray,
Each seemed to be in a spell,
As the craft sped into the bay.

The craft careered on at full speed,
Adrenaline started its flow.
The fear then seemed to recede,
We were there to “give a good show”.

Crafts full of young men in their prime
Each checking equipment once more.
This eased the passage of time,
As diesels continued to roar.

The craft slewed and reared on the swell
White faces were wet with the spray,
Our fate no one could foretell
As we raced on into the bay.

In the great scheme of things of course,
There’s nothing of worth on those shores.
Radios crackled some Morse
And bow men stood by the bow doors.

As mangrove trees loomed into sight
And young hearts beat fast out of fear.
Astern dawn’s eerie first light,
The sounds of some gunfire seemed near.

The craft slowed and rode a slight swell,
White faces still wet with the spray.
There seemed a flatulent smell
As we neared the shore of the bay.

Propellers churned up a grey froth
Through mud of the marshy foreshore.
The mud like flames to a moth
Stuck us fast and we moved no more.

The bow doors slapped down on the mud
The first men sank in far too deep.
Terror then froze in their blood,
Stuck there for the reaper to reap.

The small craft brought us to this hell,
Such places can trap men as prey.
Their plan was to charge pell-mell,
But this mud here had blocked the way.

They strained as they fought with the ooze.
A battle with men they could win.
This fight with some mud they’d lose;
The diesel roars made a loud din.

Then tracers etched through the dawn sky
As shells burst beyond the shore line.
Minutes then slowly dragged by
In the mud, the muck and the slime.

Our craft too were stuck in this hell
And the crews were trapped in the bay.
Shell fire still clattered its knell
And quagmires of mud blocked the way.

As diesels churned up a grey froth
Men slithered in mud to the shore.
They raged an undignified wrath,
They wallowed and sweated and swore.

The engines then eased to a hum,
The boat crew had failed though they’d tried.
Though mud we could not overcome;
We could well float free with the tide.

The craft was then stuck in that hell
And we had to get to the shore.
Shell fire still clattered a knell;
– Mud beckoned beyond the bow door …

© Trevor Morgan 1997 & 2018

From: “Saga of Sabah”
Published in Borneo, 2015

Sorties away

Long time ago I was in the operations room of a carrier as she turned into the wind and launched a whole squadron of her aircraft. As a radar operator I tracked them until they went below our radar horizon. Strange something as mighty as a carrier has to turn into the wind to launch a strike. This is predictable and ought to make them vulnerable, but they operate within a screen of escorts that are needed to protect them.

sorties away

Sorties away

Carriers turned into the wind
In distant deep wide seas
And now because some fools had sinned;
The world is out of ease.

And sortie after sortie went
To deal a hammer blow.
With a resolve that won’t relent
They’re sent to cause more woe.

The carrion of the deep will feed
Upon much mortal flesh
And madness will not yet recede;
We’re all caught in its mesh.

Carriers turned back on their course
Their sorties are away,
But actions done without remorse,
May cause yet more dismay.

Trevor Morgan 2015

From: “Saga of Sabah”

Sonnet – Churchill

I saw Churchill once when in the Navy.
I was stood at a crossing waiting for a long time to cross a road in London. There was a traffic jam and his car stopped in front of me. As I was in uniform I saluted. The old man looked really bored and he looked right through me like I was not there.

Churchill

Sonnet – Churchill

A boozer who attracted only strife
And then disaster came and sealed his fate.
Lack lustre in the lottery of life,
Who was called on in war to lead the state
And this ensured the fame of this great man.
His back against the wall for those long years
And though around the last years of his span,
His strength was there through all the loss and fears,
Through all of those defeats and long retreat.
Not like Cnut he helped to make tide turn;
His fortitude would be his greatest feat.
Within the Axis tyrants had to learn
That those who start long wars and dirty strife;
Beware of those who’ve had less luck in life.

© Trevor Morgan, 10/5/2018

The stain of trauma

Some things we carry with us alone in the mind.
Things impossible to share.

Stainoftrauma.jpg

The stain of trauma

Trauma may leave a darker stain,
A certain special scent.
Now once that’s burned into your brain,
Somehow it won’t relent.

Now there’s reminders everywhere
That brings it back to mind.
For where there’s things we cannot share,
Then life becomes a grind.

We can smell things that aren’t at hand,
Flashbacks burn in the brain.
Tormented minds just cannot stand
The trauma and its stain.

False scents seem true to haunted men
Whose torments won’t relent,
And they are only ended when
All of life’s force is spent.

Survivors carry such a cost,
Too much for some to stand.
And when it seems all hope is lost;
They die by their own hand!

Why do we let our young men die,
In so much pointless strife?
Though many more are wasted by
A long but blighted life.

© Trevor Morgan, 5/5/2018

We have failed our veterans.
We have failed all our victims of trauma however caused.
We are yet to become a real civilised society.
This is sad.