I was looking at my Facebook homepage today and saw a post that had been written by someone imagining what it must be like to be a military wife or husband when their partner is on tour. Whilst the sentiment was nice, I felt the poem had a lot to be desired, a view that, judging by the comments under it, was shared by a lot of other people.
This spurned me on to thinking about how I might address this difficult topic so I put my fingers to the keyboard and came up with the following poem;
Before you read it you should note that;
- In verse 1 ‘Op MINIMISE’ is the name of the practice of stopping deployed personnel contacting loved ones at home immediately after a major event has occurred in theatre. This is done in order to ensure that the authorities have time to tell the next of kin what has happened to their loved ones before the Jungle drums start beating.
- In verse 3 the word 'patch’ is the colloquial term for a military housing estate.
Have You Heard?
When I dropped the kids at school
The talk was; “have you heard?”
They must be on Op MINIMISE
Because there’s been no word.
I had to do the shopping
the stocks were getting low.
I met Barbara in Tesco’s,
she asked; “Do you know?”
Back home the patch is quiet.
I crack on behind closed doors,
The radio in the background
As I do my household chores.
My mind is spinning painfully.
My emotions are red raw.
How I wish he was here with me,
not in some bloody war.
The phone’s shrill call disturbs me
My mind is suddenly blurred,
It’s Julie from down the road
She asks “Have you heard?”
“Jackie’s Smudge has been injured
He’s coming home today,
I’m going over to help her.”
I didn’t know what to say.
Relief floods in, for my Jack’s safe.
My heart leaps for joy;
But then its shattered; for young Smudge
is such a lovely boy.
It’s hard to be the partner
of service folk on tour.
When they’re away you’re left with
your own hell to endure.
You have to run a household
and tend to grieving kids
whilst guarding your own emotions
and missing them to bits.
John Carré Buchanan
20 March 2012