Poetry Break – “Let Me Tell You How I Died” – Normandy

Well, we’re home. The adventure is over. It was so amazing that I’m still processing a lot of it. I saw places with my own eyes that I’ve read about and written about for over a decade. I ran my fingers through the sand at Omaha Beach and Sword Beach. I wove through a real trench from the WWI Ypres Salient that was once surrounded by shell craters and mud, but is now surrounded by a bustling, modern-day city. I stood on 100-year-old battlefields that still bore scars I could both see with my eyes and feel with my heart. I navigated the chilled caves of Fort Douaumont where French soldiers withstood unimaginable bombardments and lost thousands of soldiers in the First World War. I stood at the mole on Dunkirk Beach, once mobbed by 330,000 desperate soldiers trying to cross the English channel. I walked through beautiful cities across Europe and heard their bell towers chime. I stood atop the highest peak in Germany, and I also beheld the gorgeous summit of Switzerland’s Titlis Mountain. I took a picture on the same stairs where the Von Trapp children learned Do-Re-Mi. I walked down the vast aisles of churches that were hundreds of years old and heard their massive pipe organs echo. I met and spoke with people from all over the world, some of them I even stumbled my way through in French or German. I walked across Pegasus Bridge both the original and the new. I stood in graveyards that had seas of stones and wept for people I never knew but somehow feel so connected with despite the years of time between us. I saw way too many graves marked with the words “Known Unto God.” I hiked through the heat but also froze in the snow. I ate so much Belgian chocolate I got sick to my stomach, and I also had no regrets. I paid homage to a dearly departed friend by finding the tiny town in Belgium where he fought in WWII. I stepped up in ways I didn’t know I could at times, and crumbled with exhaustion at other times. Then, I sat bedraggled and frustrated for two days at an airport terminal in London and could only think of one thing. Home. I learned so much about the world and myself, and I cannot wait for the next big adventure.   

I have loads of articles coming from this truly incredible trip. However, it will take me some time to get my ducks in a row, so to speak. So, while I research, reorganize and get myself back in the writing mode, I leave you with the next installment of my Poem Epic. As I have now stood on the beaches of Normandy, it packs more of a punch for me. I hope it moves you as well. You can also take a peek at the pictures from this journey by clicking here. I am so looking forward to catching up with all of you!  

M.B. Henry.




It’s a cold gray morning, the water is rough

The boat tosses and jolts,  I’m glad my gut is tough

The shore creeps closer, I see gun flashes

Obstacles, barbed wire, and debris burned to ashes

We stop with a jolt, though the shore’s not close

We’ll swim the rest, all the way to the coast

My body hits the water, I’m pulled down by my gear

I struggle to float as bullets zip past my ear

I swim hard for the shore and hit the cold sand

I drag myself up then give my buddies a hand

With yelling and rage, we storm up the beach

Though the fire is hot, the wall we must reach

Already the bodies lay in big piles

Blood in the sand and corpses tangled in wires

The man next to me drops in a burst of red

Another man goes, shot right in the head

Everyone falling, my own luck runs out

I take a hard shot, and I let out a shout

I breathe my last in my final fight

On the beaches of Normandy, my friends, goodnight.

To read an intro to this poem and the first segment, “The Blitz,” click here. 

To read segment 2, “Stalingrad,” click here

To read segment 3, “Pearl Harbor,” click here 

82 Comments on “Poetry Break – “Let Me Tell You How I Died” – Normandy

  1. Wow — what a trip you had, M.B.! You already described it eloquently in today’s post, and I can’t wait to read more! Also, that’s an excellent, harrowing, gut-wrenching fourth segment of your poem.

    • It was indeed a journey! 🙂 I’m so glad you liked the poem. I’m looking forward to getting my literature thinking cap back on through your blog!

    • I will look forward to having you back for the upcoming posts! 🙂 It was truly amazing, still kind of in awe of all the things we saw!

  2. Blimey you certainly had an epic journey. My dad was at Dunkirk in WWII, I have travelled to many places in France but not the Battle sites or war cemeteries, needs to go on the list.

    • Wow that’s very moving about your dad. Hope he made it out okay?? I highly encourage a visit to these places, it’s very humbling to stand there in person.

      • He made it out safely, he couldn’t swim so he drove a bus out into the sea as far as it would go, so he told me.

      • Well whatever got him out of there safe! Glad he made it out okay 🙂

    • I’m so happy I could share the journey with you on Twitter! 🙂 It was an amazing trip – can’t wait to get back to more of your fabulous photos!

  3. Wonderful poem and sad. Your story of your adventures over seas was also wonderful. I could picture the places you described so well. We are in Cherokee NC at present, where I also had a history and language lesson. I will share it all with you when we return. We picked up a surprise for you. We will mail it when we return to Missouri on the 27th.

  4. I look forward to more about your adventures. Thanks for sharing more of your poem. Very moving, as always. Hope you have some time to relax!

    • I took an extra week to decompress after we got back 🙂 Since we crammed eight countries into 20 days or so I needed it haha. I will look forward to seeing you back for future posts, and also catching up with your blog!

  5. Few people these days have any appreciation for or even knowledge of the sacrifice and resolve displayed at Normandy. Another matter to which I often give thought is that if we were able to plan this invasion and pull it off , we ought to be a lot more successful and efficient in confronting and solving the world’s problems today not just in a military sense.

    • That is an excellent point you make. The things we do when we pull together are amazing and powerful. We could get so much more done, couldn’t we? Glad you stopped by to share your thoughts.

  6. As I’ve mentioned before I’m no poet and have not read much poetry. In my studies of the the first world war I’ve come across poetry written by ordinary soldiers most of whom did not make it back. Your poetry seems to echo their own thoughts in many ways. All that to say thanks for focusing on the humanity aspect of war (and welcome back).

    • This is very flattering, thank you. I too am often amazed by the incredible impact that WWI had on art and literature from famous artists to the humble soldier stuck in the thick of it all. It always amazed me how people caught in such hell can create such beauty! Conflicting human nature I suppose. Thank you so much for the kind words and for taking time for a poem! 🙂

  7. first, welcome back. second, i’m so jealous of all those places you’ve seen right now i want to pack and go explore!
    and although that’s a sad and brutal poem, it was beautifully done.
    can’t wait to hear all about your trip!

    • Thank you very much! Glad you enjoyed the poem. And yes, the travel bug bites us all hard, doesn’t it? 🙂 The more I explore the more I want to!

  8. The beach looks so peaceful.

    My uncle Jack was a ranger who fought at Omaha beach – and one of my favorite stories come from my grandmother’s recollections of that year.

    During early winter in 1944, while her sons were fighting in Europe, my grandmother walked a mile every day from the capital complex in Saint Paul where she worked for the highway department to her home on Holly ave. She was working long hours because of the labor shortage due to the war and often walked home well after dark.

    Each night as she turned onto Holly Ave, she looked up the block to see if there were any houses with their lights burning. Most of the houses were dark because conserving electricity demonstrated support for the war and even though Saint Paul was a thousand miles from any ocean, black-outs showed solidarity for the coastal cities.

    But a house with lights on meant something else. When a soldier was lost, family, friends and neighbors came over to support the family, so the house was lit up.

    One day in October when my grandmother turned the corner – several blocks away, a house glowed against the night. It was hers.

    Grief-stricken, she ran the distance as fast as she could, wondering which son she had lost.

    When she bolted into her yard, she noticed that her family, friends and neighbors were all smiling. Her son, my uncle Jack had been shot, but the bullet clipped his elbow – and he was out of the war and coming home.

    • That is a very moving story, I even got a little misty eyed reading it! Thank you so much for sharing it here. And yes it’s an amazing thing I find that those old battlefields are all so beautiful and peaceful now. You would never imagine such horror in a beautiful place if not for the monuments. Always glad when you stop by and share your thoughts 🙂

  9. Welcome back. We’ve missed you. Thanks for sharing your trip report and the photos to complement the narrative. What an adventure! Really enjoying the “Let Me Tell You How I Died” segments. They bring to life personal as well as national tragedies.

    • Thanks Lee! It is good to be back and catch up with everyone, I’ve missed you all too! So glad you enjoyed the poem, can’t wait to catch up with some of your own fabulous works.

  10. Goodness me, you packed a lot in! How long did you have? Visiting the cemeteries in France and Belgium, and some of the other sites you mention, is not easy for anyone with half an imagination; look forward to reading your take on them. Fascinating photos by the way – as I say, you certainly got about!

    • Yes it was sure a whirlwind haha! We had three weeks and we packed a lot into that for sure. We were in eight countries total, stayed in a different place each night, sometimes multiple cities in a day, but we had a rented car and road tripped it which helped. A lot of people told us we were crazy to squeeze that much in but I’m glad we did it anyway. We saw so many beautiful, moving, humbling, and amazing things. Can’t wait for the next big adventure! Glad you enjoyed the pictures – those battlefields and cemeteries are indeed very moving and pack a punch.

  11. What a beautifully written piece of work-both your narrative and the poem. You have made a meaningful connection with what we usually have read in books, or seen in movies to your visits to these places I look forward to reading more of your work.

    • Thank you very much! So glad to have you visit and share your thoughts. It was a very moving journey in many ways. You are very right, it was powerful to stand in places I have read about and written about for a large chunk of my being.

    • I look forward to sharing them! 🙂 Thanks for coming by and giving this a read

  12. What an amazing trip that must have been. There is something about battlefields that lingers long after we have left the site. It makes us realize how little warfare there has been in our occidental lives since WWII.

    • It was truly humbling to stand in those places. I can’t imagine what it must have been like. Grateful doesn’t seem a strong enough word sometimes.

  13. Moving. Sad. I like the looks of your book recommendations. I’m writing a book set in 1910 England, and it’s amazing how many colloquialisms were already in place.

      • Oh very nice! Don’t usually read kids fiction but I do have a lot of nieces and nephews to try getting into reading and history!

      • That sounds excellent. Humor is always a good way to go! 🙂 Especially when dealing with something heavy, always good to have some light and laughable moments in there. Can’t wait to hear how the progress goes for your book!

  14. What a beautiful and moving tribute. Your pictures are so amazing. I can’t wait to look at all of them more closely. What an exciting adventure you had. I love it that you referenced The Sound of Music. That is my mom’s favorite musical. Also, good for you eating all the chocolate. That was a good choice!

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to look through all the photos and share your thoughts, I’m so glad and very flattered you enjoyed them so much. As for the chocolate, we just have to do what we have to do sometimes haha! 🙂 No regrets!

    • We definitely saw a lot on that trip, but I fear the travel bug has bitten me hard. The more I see, the more I want to see! 🙂

  15. An epic trip! Hats off to you and also to your hubby for his support. I look forward to reading what you experienced. Another good poem.

    • Thank you very much! And yes my husband is my biggest fan! 🙂 Thanks so much for coming by and giving it a read

    • Gosh we jumped around so much I didn’t even think about trying to meet up with blogger friends! Darn it all 🙁 Well we will be back I’m sure. And by the way you were totally right about Switzerland haha. Soooooo expensive, but those VIEWS. <3

  16. Welcome back! It sounds like an incredible trip, especially with all the historic research you’ve done. I’d like to say it sounds exciting, but I don’t want to diminish the importance of the sites you visited.

    As an aside, your remark about too much Belgian chocolate + no regrets rings true with me. I did exactly the same thing when I visited many years ago.

    • Hahaha glad I have an ally in the too much chocolate battle. And I think “exciting” is a perfectly acceptable word to use. It fulfills something special to stand in places so familiar and that you’ve read about for so long, and exciting is one of many words to describe it 🙂

  17. It looks like my comment didn’t work…? Hmm.

    Anyway, just wanted to say Welcome Back, and I’m looking forward to reading more about your trip. I would like to say it sounds exciting, but I don’t want to diminish the sites where so many grim events took place.

    Also, I can totally relate to your Belgian Chocolate experience. It’s way too easy to overindulge, but there are no regrets.

  18. Pingback: Poetry Break - "Let Me Tell You How I Died" - Part I Finale - An Old Soldier - M.B. HENRY

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