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

Last year, I tapped into my long-dormant poetry well, and I posted a series of seven poems about World War II.  They were all from the vantage points of the many people, from many places, killed during the conflict.  This year, the “Let Me Tell You How I Died” series is back with seven segments from World War I.  It was a conflict so encompassing in its devastation that it came to be known as “the Great War.”  Before it was through, it had laid waste to most of Europe as well as an entire generation of fighting soldiers.  Here for you is the first segment of Part II of this poem epic.  I hope you enjoy it, as well as the following six that will be posted over the next few months.




That one had my number, it was just my turn

It’s a thing about this war we all must learn

If your number comes up, there’s nothing to do

Whether it’s him, or whether it’s you

I was a Tommy, so young, just a lad

But then the war came, and it was so damn bad

So I answered the call, I marched off to the fields

I took up the sword, the cannon, the shields

Now here I sit in the trenches and mud

The rain pours down in a miserable flood

The rats, the lice, the gas, the smell

The bodies, the bones, the graveyard – it’s hell

Then came the shell that had my name

It came hard and fast, it’s always the same

It hit me so hard, like a punch to the back

I let out a scream, then it all went black

At least I didn’t feel any pain

It was over so fast in that pouring rain

Goodbye, dear world, heavenward I’m bound

But you’ll never know, because I won’t be found

To Be Continued… 

63 Comments on “Poetry Break – “Let Me Tell You How I Died” – Shelling

    • A lovely suggestion that I’ve thought on once or twice. I just may do it one of these days! Glad you enjoyed it.

    • So glad they move you. Sounds like I really need to start thinking about the chapbook! 🙂

  1. Very evocative as always. I concur that you should publish this series.

    I wonder if you’ve ever considered a similar epic on the civilian casualties of war?

    • Thank you very much! 🙂 As for writing about civilians, you must have read my mind! 🙂 I am working on a brand new book now (separate from the one I’m marketing) that covers the civilian angle. Nothing coming out of the poetry fountain about it yet, but I’m sure it will at some point.

      • It’s a historical fiction novel that follows a young man growing up in the Great Depression, then his time in the war in the Battle for Hurtgen Forest and the Battle of the Bulge. The story comes out through a modern-day high school girl who interviews the old vet for her history class, and then ends up growing closer to him as she understands all he’s lost. Kind of a cross generational thing! 🙂

    • Thank you very much for reading! 🙂 I appreciate it and am glad it moved you

  2. Definitely do the book! Love the poignancy of the first person perspective.

    I thought of you last week when I came across a little old book of war poetry, written during WW1 & published in 1920, written by a scottish lady who’s name escapes me at the mo, and also in first person, but from lots of different peoples perspectives, I’ll have to scan some and send them to you as I know you’ll enjoy it.

  3. You certainly know how to paint a picture with your writing. Very well written….and very sad.

    • Well I can honestly say this is the first I’ve been compared with a heavy metal band! 🙂 It makes my day, really. I totally see it after reading the lyrics, too. Especially with “the Longest Day” and “these Colors Don’t Run,” definitely some similar theme and stylistic choices. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing! 🙂

  4. Your descriptions *feel* like WWI, at least, judging by what I’ve read. What a miserable, horrible experience, which makes the end of your piece really sad and gut-wrenching.

    • That’s very flattering that the feeling comes across! Thank you very much! So glad it moved you – I sure wish we could think of better ways to solve differences.

  5. Anything I have ever read about those trenches in WW I spells misery, MB, and you have captured it well. I look forward to the next installments. –Curt

  6. I attending a lecture years ago about WWI and what we used as references, and what was the most truthful. They had a photo, a painting and a poem. we all agreed that the poem conveyed the realities of war more than the others – this poem reminded me of that. it was very moving – great writing MB

    • That’s very flattering – thank you! Your comment also reminds me of how poetry was used by the soldiers in WWI to express their feelings about all the turmoil – a lot of famous poets also served in those trenches. And of course one of the most famous military poems, “In Flanders Fields” came from a doctor in that war. It’s all very moving!

    • Thank you! Sorry about the difficulties – sometimes my comment filter on here is weird!

  7. Sometimes when I read your posts I almost get the impression you are channeling some distant memory — as you have with this poem. What strikes me is the horror and sadness of it, juxtaposed against the almost detached resignation that “it was just my turn.” Beautifully written, M.B.

    • Thank you very much 🙂 You always say the nicest things. You’re also not the first person to mention the possibility of channeling to me. There’s a lot of things about this world we can’t explain yet! All I know for sure is that when the muse speaks, I have no choice but to write it down. It feels like something much bigger than me.

      • You deserve every good word that comes your way, and so many more! And I do agree that there are lots of things we can’t explain, so it’s possible you have some real connection to these events, or perhaps are more sensitive to their echoes. Who knows? No matter the source of your inspiration, I’m grateful you’re keeping these memories alive in such a vivid, human way.

      • <3 Thank you very much!!! Comments like these certainly inspire more confidence to keep going.

  8. Wow! You are a great poet! Loved it – even though it is incredibly sad. Have to ask: is the cannon on your landing page from Gettysburg? Thanks for writing these important poems. Do you intend to cover all the wars?

    • That is from Gettysburg! Good eye!! 🙂 I’m so glad you’re enjoying the poems too. If you scroll back further on my blog page, you will find the WWII Part of this big poem. Civil War will be incoming, probably sometime next year 🙂

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