In partnership with the Imperial War Museum, I was part of a project to mark the anniversary of 100 years after Armistice Day.
100 years. 100 writers. 100 people who were alive during World War 1.
100 centenas – a poem of exactly 100 words, with the first and last lines repeating.
I chose to honour George Gurnel Davison: a soldier from my home of Romiley in Stockport. He wrote letters to his wife and son – long, loving, focused on them and their needs, rarely on his life in the warring trenches.
He died there, in the mud and blood, his body never recovered due to heavy shelling in the area.
And I couldn’t imagine how he must have felt, at the end. An overwhelming sense of love for his family? A bitter sense of loss for what had been stripped from him so brutally?
I decided to honour both possibilities in a final imagined letter home.
UNWRITTEN: CONFLICT IN A DUGOUT GRAVE
My dear Nellie.
I linger for eternity on
My final thoughts.
The shriek and thunk of skull-shredding shells – these are not
What I should tell you. My surroundings,
Reveal absolute evil. So I know,
I cannot just
Speak truth to you,
Though you wanted me to
Throughout this war.
My life’s joy, my love for you and Duncan,
In this dugout – now my resting place.
I dreamt simple dreams
Today I am gone, my plans were all in vain.
I regret my life.
You’ll never hear me say these words,
My dear Nellie.
[now read from bottom to top]
“I thought your centena today was exceptional, heartbreaking twice over, from top to bottom and bottom to top. Mindboggling how you worked it all out so perfectly. Well done. You’ve now set the bar very high for the remaining centenas.”
John Simmons, author and brand consultant
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