The Battle of Verdun was fought from 21st February to 18 December 1916. It was the longest single battle of World War One. It was also one of the most intense and bloodiest battles.
There were over 700,000 casualties ( dead, wounded and missing)
The area was so devasated that it was declared a Zone Rouge after the war.
Walk as far as you’re allowed.
‘Interdit. Verboten. Forbidden.’
For the grey earth still yields
a deadly iron harvest.
Stop and gaze around.
You’ll see green undulating hills,
but they were not always there.
A hundred years ago this place was blasted
with explosives and millions of shells.
In their wake a desert terrain
of pockmarks and craters,
brimmed with soldiers’ shattered remains.
Go there today and remember,
those lush mounds shroud a living hell.
This poem was shortlisted in the 2013 Mslexia poetry competition.
The quail’s egg.
The water melon seller
came every day.
He stacked the globed fruit
in a wooden cart,
small at the front,
large at the back.
He always selected
one especially for me,
then used a knife
to make a cone incision,
removing it with a flourish.
‘You could do worse than marry him,’
my mother said.
But I was not untouched.
On the wedding night
my mother gave me a quail’s egg
she’d filled with blood.
When the shell cracked
I wept silent tears
for the quail’s lost life.