Battleground state


A shocked and blasted silence. All is still
Except the crows that blow like tattered flags
Among the shattered stalks reduced to rags
And splinters by steel blades and iron will.
Both sides dug deep: across the battlefield
The breastworks brood where tyres and heavy clay
Clashed in their ancient feud. Machines held sway,
Forced sodden crop and stubborn ground to yield.
A triumph, then. Yet this exhausted land
Remains unchanged: in time these marks will fade
And then the victors will be forced to trade
Once more; release the throat, and clasp the hand.
To leave enough to do it all again.
The truest test of country, and of men.


On Thursday, I passed a recently-cut field of forage maize, which, to judge by the mud and ruts, had put up quite a fight. It made me think of the US election: all that time, effort, money and struggle, yet nothing fundamental appears (at least to an outsider like me) to have changed very much; on our TV news here in the UK, pundits are already talking about the challenges facing whoever comes after President Obama. Seems to me that, just as farmers need to keep their land in good heart while striving for the greatest possible yield, our politicians need to remember that, even if they win this time, they’re going to need our goodwill again somewhere down the line. N.

2 thoughts on “Battleground state

  1. What a powerful sonnet, Nick. The rhyme scheme is so well done it makes me jealous.
    The meaning of the poem strikes me as particularly appropriate, the clash of machine and clay in a field that takes seed and then eliminates the sense of the plow in soil as the crops grow. Then the continuance,
    The truest test of country, and of men.
    The election over here had me deeply upset for weeks. I was afraid that in Mitt Romney won Navajo Technical College, ranked one of the 120 best community colleges in the nation, an American Indian college, may have lost funding. It certainly does in the Vice Presidential candidate’s, Paul Ryan’s, budget. I could not even read poetry for the last few weeks of the campaign. I cannot understand how greed, in the form of corporations, has somehow become the highest good in the minds of too many rather than a gluttonous sin. Still, it is over. I am back to poetry again, I hope, and reading poetry. Continuance is again a human value.
    I hope you are well.

    • Thank you as always for your wise words, Tom. I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve used some of your comment in my new piece; your thoughts fitted exactly with mine, and brought the thing together perfectly for me. I am, as ever, in your debt. Trust you and Ethel are both well. N.

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