Paper Chains; The Poem That Wrote Itself

I am not going to pretend I am a great poet, I am simply sharing this because I want to express the heart-breaking thought I had while writing it.

‘I am a paper man, bound by paper chains.

We scream silently, numbers in a game,

Our plight dulled to invisible bloodstains.

Glory, they say. No dancing bones, no shame

‘As friends become numbers. We ravage them,

Taunting; haunting. Choose feathers over lies.

But we are nothing now, just an emblem,

A postcard, yellow, though still she cries.

‘He stands and reveres a life unlived:

I writhe, suffocating, in no-man’s dust.

My remains are sold, carved by care contrived

A violent struggle, a paper head unjust.

‘My life a sentence on an unread page,

As a lady lays a rose on a fresh grave.’

When I started writing, the idea I had in mind was very different to the poem that stared back at me when I was finished.

I wanted to capture the insignificance of life but at the same time the individual importance we all hold: the traces we leave behind. A will. A note. Bills, documents, a birth certificate, a death certificate. The words and numbers that rule us with unfathomable power, and yet, are entirely powerless. Just paper.

Once I started setting my words to paper, however, the ideology behind it shifted entirely, it became fueled by a quiet rage at societies injustices.

I took on the persona of a young WW2 soldier, anonymous as many hundreds of war victims were, and in doing so I opened a new world of thought.

For a moment, imagine. Imagine you have been forced to enlist. Imagine you are trembling, dying in the trenches. And yet, back home, the people who claim to protect you are manipulating your life and twisting it into something it isn’t.

How would you feel to know that while you suffer, tales of your feigned glory encourage other to enlist?

Guilty? Angry? More likely you would be completely unaware.

I understand that in war-time a certain level of censorship and propaganda, of sorts, is required, but if I were one of those involved, would I feel the same? These men lost their lives physically – unavoidable in war – but what right did the media have to take away the meaning of their lives too?

These were the thoughts that plagued me as I began to right, and, even after putting my words on paper they plague me still.

The thoughts expressed in the 14 lines are dark ones, but equally ones that should be shared by all. I wanted to hint at propaganda and death and the raw meaning of life, as well as the essence of human nature; greed. I won’t explain how because that is open to your own interpretation. However, I will explore one thing that I believe is of importance, the final line. I knew before anything else what my last line would be:

‘As a lady lays a rose on a fresh grave.’

The men being sent to the front lines had families, wives, children, girlfriends, sisters, grandparents, friends. They were people. And that is my message: In war we cannot lose benevolence for surely to truly win we must maintain the meaning of life.


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