Summer Reality – two poems by Brian Whittingham

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Hi Ho Hi Ho Trident’s Got To Go


The Boys of The Somme

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The woman on the right is Pat Arrowsmith, who organised the first Aldermaston March and was at Burghfield last month(June, 2016).

HI HO HI HO, TRIDENT’S GOT TO GO by Brian Whittingham

On YouTube a 60’s newsreel.

A black and white Dunoon.
A smartly dressed Ban the Bomber
waves a To Hell with Polaris  placard
reminding us that H stands for Hiroshima
as well as Holy Loch.

A lone folkie strums as he marches.

     Ban Polaris Hallelujah,
Ban Polaris Hallelujah,
Ban Polaris Hallelujah
… and send the Yankees home!

The white Ban the Bomb symbol
with arms of  despair.
A young well-dressed Michael Foot
behind a well behaved pipe band
playing Scottishy tunes.

Onlookers record on Box-Brownies.

●    ●    ●

Fifty year later.
A red George Square in Glasgow.
Casual dressed campaigners
still marching
still protesting.

A forest of placards
pleading Gie Peace a Chance
reminding us it’s Bairns Not Bombs
reminding us it’s Teachers not Trident
just in case it’s been forgotten …

and a song from a marching choir …

It takes your left leg off
It takes your right leg off
Your eyes fall out
and the dust makes you cough!

Saltires and Lion Rampants
flutter in hopeful defiance
A vendor sells a Freedom Flag for a fiver
as if freedom could be bought so cheaply.

From every corner of the Square
mobile phones flash for posterity.

●    ●    ●

A lone busker
standing in front of the Cenotaph
plays his out of tune electric guitar
his crackling speaker lashed to a shopping trolley.

     Hi Ho Hi Ho, Trident’s got to go
        Now Thatcher’s gone
        Lets Ban the Bomb
        Hi Ho Hi Ho Hi Ho Hi Ho!

Hi Ho Hi Ho, Trident’s got to go
        Now Thatcher’s gone
        Lets Ban the Bomb
        Hi Ho Hi Ho Hi Ho Hi Ho!

Stuck in a timeless loop
morphed from the past singing,
not knowing who, if anyone,
is listening,
or ever had listened to a single word being said?

In 1958, Gerald Holtom, a designer and former World War II conscientious objector from West London, persuaded The Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War that their aims would have greater impact if they were conveyed in a visual image. The “Ban the Bomb” symbol was born which would later be adopted by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. He considered using a Christian cross motif but, instead, settled on using letters from the semaphore – or flag-signalling – alphabet, super-imposing N (Nuclear) on D (Disarmament) and placing them within a circle symbolising the Earth.
Holtom later explained the Genisis for his idea, “I drew myself, an individual in deep despair, with hands palm outstretched outwards and downwards in the manner of Goya’s peasant before the firing squad.”
In Goya’s painting, The Third of May 1808, the peasant actually has his hands facing upwards.
The designer came to regret the symbolism of despair, as he felt that peace was something to be celebrated and wished he’d inverted the symbol.

the somme.jpg

THE BOYS OF THE SOMME  by Brian Whittingham

Like military apparitions the re-enactors  
thread their way through early morning commuters  
heading for another day at the office.
These spirits are dressed in  
pristine WW1 khaki British uniforms  
and wear no mud or blood no fear or terror …
and though we cannot see the bodies  
strung out on the wire’s barbs
as if still marionettes with severed strings
and though we cannot splash  
through puddles of rat infested trenches
and though we cannot hear the deafening crash of shells
nor the machine-gun clatter nor the thud thud thud  
of yet another hail of bullets.
and though we cannot scratch the lice from our tunics
and though we cannot smell the stench of hurtling death
and though we cannot see  
the French boys with their red trousers
nor the German boys with their spiked helmets.
and though we cannot walk the Picardy countryside
through cornflower blue and poppy red …
We somehow feel we can empathise
with the bereaved families who could see their dead loved ones
walk in amongst the busy city crowds way back in their day
so these re-enactors do something to us,
as they sing ‘We’re here because we’re here’
and hand out their calling cards of death.
Brian Whittingham

July, 2016

Mary Irvine's Blog: Booked! Festival Jimmie Macgregor, 18th May, 2016.
Rocky Sunday 10 & Wednesday 13 July, 2016 GFT

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