Fronts ~ a rhyme for Ukraine

There's many ways to win a war. With guns
You've got to have the bullets though for those
And someone's got to carry them. With tons
Of tanks. You got the diesel? Nothing goes
Unless there's diesel. Coming in a bit
Oh is it? See it come across the bridge
That isn't there. With soldiers that are fit
For fuck all when there's nothing in the fridge
You haven't got. We've got a lot of planes
Or will have when we've sorted out the fuel
And then we'll soon be splattering your brains
And blowing you from here to kingdom come
Oh will you now. "Don't shoot! I want my Mum"

There's many ways to win a war. With turds
Thrown over burning barricades. You got
A match? Too fucking right I have. With words
You fire them right and you can hit the spot
There's other things than bullets make you bleed
And other things than bombs to use to teach
That woman and the soldier and the seed -
In war there's also hearts and minds to reach
You take this seed, she said, and when you fall
In our dear country, from your lonely grave
Will come a bloom so beautiful and tall
That no-one will recall the life you gave
You're going to blow us all to kingdom come?
Oh are you now. "Don't shoot! I want my Mum"

There's many ways to win a war. Sun Tzu
Had lots to say on strategy, and still
He's widely read and what he says is true
But these days there are other ways to kill
And things that can be done by little men
So many ways civilians can play
That Sun Tzu didn't know about back then
How different a world it is today
So many fronts that it's a job to know
Which one to fight them on at any time
Flak jacket on, my friend, and off you go
And I'll stay here and write my little rhyme
“They're going to blow us all to kingdom come!”
Too right we are. "Don't shoot! I want my Mum"

© Gail Foster 26th February 2022 

Billy and The Angel

The angel sat on the edge of the trench smoking a cigarette as a new dawn rose over the ruined landscape.
‘There’s always someone worse off than you’ it said.
Billy looked around with the eye that he still had left to see.
The trench was full of mud and blood, most of which, observed Billy, was his.
‘I don’t see anyone’ he said.
‘Look harder’ said the angel.
‘My legs hurt’ said Billy.
‘That’ll be the legs that you no longer have’ said the angel.
A tear fell from Billy’s eye.
‘No use crying over spilt milk.’
Billy wiped the tear from his one eye with the one arm he had left.
‘God help me’ he said.
‘Praying for yourself now?’ said the angel, smiling, ‘Tut, tut.’
Billy despaired.
‘Give me a break, for fuck’s sake.’
‘Look’ said the angel, pointing, ‘over there.’
Billy strained his one eye in the darkness and saw, ten foot down the trench under a pile of wooden planks and body parts and broken ammunition boxes, something stir.
‘There you go’ said the angel.
‘There you go what?’ said Billy.
‘Someone worse off than you.’
‘Help me’ said a feeble voice, ‘please help me.’
‘Well go on’ said the angel to Billy, ‘do something.’
Billy looked with his one eye at the arm he no longer had left and the legs he no longer had and the blood all around him that was mostly his and said:
‘I’m sorry.
I can’t.’
‘Help me’ said the voice, ‘please help me.’
‘How the fuck’ said Billy to the angel, ‘is he worse off than me right now?’
‘It’s simple’ said the angel, blowing a cloud of smoke across the last star.
‘Nobody loves him.’
A warm wave washed over Billy’s heart and he remembered the sweet peas in his grandmother’s garden and the warm smell of home.
‘Oh’ he said.
‘Help me’ said the voice.
‘I’m here for you, brother’ said Billy.
‘Goodbye, Billy’ said the angel.
‘I’m here.’

© Gail Foster 30th July 2019

Button Wars

Little Trumpy stomped his foot
‘Look what Sloppy Steve has put!’
He said, and spitting out a sweet
Went red, and did another tweet

Little Trumpy’s button glowed
As from his tiny fingers flowed
Such foolish words as children sing
In playgrounds when they’re bullying

Little Trumpy, he’s the boy
Just William crossed with Fauntleroy
And Violet, the spoilt chick
Who thcreamed and thcreamed till she was thick

And Little Kim. What can I say
Like who’d want him to come to play
Imagine games of pass the parcel
‘OK Kim, you win’ (you arsehole)

God save us from these little boys!
Their tantrums, and exploding toys!
‘Say, my Dad’s bigger than your Dad’
‘My button’s bigger, and it’s rad’

Call the Nanny! Raise a shout!
Is Poppins anywhere about?
Or anyone who, without fear
Can clip the fat boys round the ear?

Tell them that it isn’t clever!
Send them to their beds, whatever!
Or maybe make a little chart
To stick gold stars on when they fart!

Adults are in classrooms taught
That wars are in theatres fought
And not by little kids at play
Who trash the nursery each day

I do despair. Damn, what’s to do
They’ve barely learned to hold their poo
But wait for one to chuck his ball
Out of his pram, and fuck us all

© Gail Foster 6th January 2018


Sorrow Weeps For Me


In dusty cupboards, far from prying eyes

I hide my dark and private miseries

And dress for town in bright accessories

With reddened lips, and silkly stockinged thighs

And sickly smile, in magical disguise

For there be war to fight on days like these

Dark demons to defeat, and gods to please

And light to draw down from the sullen skies

In dusty cupboards, Sorrow weeps for me

There be no place for cowards in the fray

Nor dark despair, nor moaning misery

To dull my fire and fill me with dismay

Or worse, betray me to the enemy

– I’ll catch you later, Sorrow, I’m away…


© Gail Foster 28th January 2017

Fall and Rise; for Phil North

For Phil North, on the occasion of the election of Donald Trump


Phil North, the Hyperborean

Doth know, as a historian

That kings and empires big and small

All fall and rise, and rise and fall

His studies of the ancient lands

No mere mortal understands

Greeks and Celts and bloody Romans

Dodgy cults and phallic gnomons

Ask a question if you dare

And he will tell you then and there

Dark mysteries of war and men

Of what they did, and why, and when

And show you where it all began

Beyond first cause and fall of man

Where you will find what he has found

Just gyres, turning round and round

And ‘neath the sun no new surprise

All rise and fall, and fall and rise


© Gail Foster 9th November 2016

Franklin the Flag Man; England, Devizes styly

This happened this morning, in Devizes…

Today, in The Vize, there is rain, falling in a warm fine drizzle through the grey of the morn.  As I lock the church and walk to my bicycle I see a man with a flag, by the flag pole at the War Memorial on Long Street.  He is small and elderly, with bright eyes, and is wearing a cap.

I’m interested in watching him put up the flag.  There has been debate on a local Facebook site about the correct way to display it, and I can never remember which way up it goes.  It’s the Sunday after the Queen’s birthday, and there will be a Parade.  I say hello, and he smiles in a friendly manner.  He’s Irish, and could have been a jockey, perhaps.  He’s from the British Legion.  “They call me the Poppy Man” he says.  He’s happy to let me watch, and humours me for my interest.  He shows me the line and the toggle, and explains that the correct way to display the flag is with the broad white band uppermost on the top right.  “Apparently lots of people display it wrong” I say.  “Well, now, that would mean distress” he says, and tells me about how the flag was displayed like that during the Indian Mutiny.

I’m English.  I ‘identify’ as English.  My Great Aunt Betty, who wore a silk turban, was a genealogy enthusiast, and traced my family on my mother’s side back to the twelfth century.  I am related to a strange poetess who lived in a nunnery on the Isle of Man, someone who apprehended Guy Fawkes, and a young bloke who managed to get out of being executed for the Mutiny on the Bounty because he had friends in high places.  We were vicars and ladies-in-waiting.  We ended up being what used to be termed lower middle-class.  My grandad was a clerk.

I am a liberal patriot.  I’m entirely uninterested in sending anyone back to somewhere they may have arrived at from here anyway.  Come and live in my country, by all means, whatever the colour of your skin.  Chances are I’m dimly related to you anyway.  Practice your culture as you will, but don’t compromise mine.  Pay your taxes if you can, and don’t chop up yer daughters.  Understand that, if this is Rome, certain things have to be done as Romans do them.  I’m sorry that you have to do all the dirty badly paid jobs that the English feel are beneath them.  I hate racism.  I love you.  We are one another.

I’m ambivalent about the monarchy, but I respect the Queen.  When she was young, she looked like my Mum.  I don’t want anything bad to happen to the Royal grandchildren.  In my view the Queen is as much responsible for the crimes of history as I am for the Inquisition.  But the wealth is embarrassing, and the Duke of Edinburgh is not my homeboy.

Oh how I love my country, with a passion; every green and rolling hill of it, every church, every tower block, every blade of grass, every hymn on the wind, all the palaces, the pictures, the books of our history, and our circles of stone.  I belt out ‘Jerusalem’ in church like there will be no tomorrow.

Here we are, me and Franklin, at the flag.  He shows me a sheet bend, and chats.  His mother had a sense of humour, he says.  His name is really George, but she had the habit of calling her children by their middle names.  He handles the flag with reverence, paying great care to securing the knots.  He tells me that he takes even more care since once he didn’t secure the flag properly at the bottom, resulting in it flapping inappropriately wildly on the mast.  He tells me about the time all the little crosses, each with the name of one of the Devizes fallen from the first two World Wars, were planted in sand by the Memorial.  He hoists the flag.  It sticks to the mast behind the rope and he shakes it a little to free it.  I wish that I could take a photograph, of Franklin and the flag at the War Memorial, but it is still drizzling on the two of us.

I shake Franklin’s hand, and thank him.  He smiles at me.  Franklin with a ‘i’ and not a ‘y’, I establish.  He walks one way and I walk the other.  But hang on, who is that looming grey figure with a dodgy looking hand-held machine by Franklin’s car?  Franklin has chosen to park on the road by the War Memorial near the zebra crossing, and Community Enforcement Officer WN085 is looking awfully smug.  It’s an ‘immediate issue’, apparently.  He’s too near the zebra crossing, Franklin.  It’s Sunday, just before nine, and there is no-one in sight other than Franklin, WN085 (who has a faint air of Cyborg about him), and me.  I am a strange poet, and I am not happy at all.  “Are you going to give him a ticket?” I ask, striding towards him.  “Yes” says the Cyborg.  He likes his job.  “But he’s putting up the flag for the Parade,” I say, “is there no scope for a warning, in this circumstance?”  WN085 thinks not.  Franklin is still smiling, disguising his frustration admirably even though he is, understandably, slightly miffed.  “It’s OK,” he says to me, “don’t you worry.  I’ve broken the law, and that is that.”  I appeal to WN085 one more time.  The sound of stuff falling on stony ground is deafening.  He won’t be influenced by strange poets, or patriotism.  He wouldn’t know how to climb out of a box, never mind think outside of it.

I know when a battle is worth fighting, and when it isn’t.  I say goodbye to Franklin, and he smiles and gets in his car.  I have enjoyed meeting him, and am grateful for the flag lesson.  I am sorry that he has got a ticket for his pains, but have been blessed to share time with him.  I walk to my bike.

WN085 strides purposefully towards town feeling well pleased with himself.

This, my friends, is England.

© Gail Foster 2016



They Never Went To War



They never went to war; they stayed at home

The young, the old, the unwell and the dead

The women who were not allowed to roam

The men who tilled the fields and baked the bread

Those sat in darkness waiting for the rap

Of letterbox, and soft white feather fall

The silence broken by a dripping tap

Dark shadows cast by street lamps on the wall

The little lads who ran behind the train

That took their fathers off to certain death

Who waved until their arms ached in the rain

Who ran until their lungs ran out of breath

Old men who yearned for youth; just one more chance

To feel the blood flow, hear the battle cry

To wear the uniform and take a stance

To stand with other men, to fight and die

The crippled and the mad, the deaf, the blind

Escaped the fate of many thousand men

Some angry that they had been left behind

Some thankful that they’d never fight again

 Women, who with their sleeves rolled ploughed the land

Lit candles, raised the children, hid their tears

Made ammunitions with a careful hand

Kept watch and saved the night time for their fears

So many stayed at home, and stayed alive

And suffered pain and loss, regret and guilt

That they were left, that they were to survive

Within the house such sacrifice had built

Their many names are not inscribed on stone

Those sorrowed souls, so haunted by war’s ghost

Were left to stand and mourn the dead alone

Listening to the trumpet sound the post


by Gail