A poppy sprung up, ruby-red, next to some barbed wire. Where am I here? he asked the thistles that grew alongside him. Where are others of my kin?
thistles of course act as guards and never make intelligent
conversation. They waved each day in the golden sunlight or in the
light breeze, if there was one. They shooed birds and bees away from
his blood-red petals. Don't rest here, they seemed to say, he is
while the long green grasses were softer, they weren't much better.
They whispered nonsense and at times tried to smother him. Tried to
conceal that he, in all his loneliness, existed. You're not wanted,
they told him. Why did you bloom here? Don't you see the barbed wire?
no choice in the matter, the poppy replied every time, I want my
mother, a father, a home, those times seemed like so long ago. But he
was sure that there had been a life before this. How did I come to be
here? A lone poppy in an overgrown field or meadow?
other poppies think as I do? There was not another to ask, not that
he could see.
soil he was in was a hard brown-red, which to him seemed unusual. The
colour didn't seem true to natural earth. Shouldn't it be darker –
more of a brown than a red? Did something happen here that as a poppy
I can't remember?
barbed wire remained taut and hostile, almost as if it wanted to
prick his memory. Every so often, he tried to communicate: What is
it? Tell me. But nothing so far had worked.
one day, he pleaded: Please, if you know something, anything, put me
out of my misery.
I keep returning to this same lonely spot, year after year, if the
truth of how I came to be here is clouded?
this time, it must have touched a raw nerve.
horror will not be forgot, the barbed wire said, if I told you. Are
you sure you want to know? Once you remember, your innocence will
again be lost.
need to know why I stand here, away from places where I presume many
were a spy here. Working alone against the enemy. You were so scared,
you got careless. In your short military career, you'd seen others
fallen. But I don't know all the facts, other than that you were
young and fell here with no fellow countryman to cradle your head as
you took your last dying breath. It was a pitiful death, and I'm
supposed to be neutral, but how could I be when you fell almost upon
me? War is senseless.
barbed wire spoke so pragmatically that the poppy did not feel
distressed hearing his own story. It had been too long for that, but
hazy memories did come back of a war he'd been involved in. A war
that had shook him, shook him to his very core, and all those around
him. So many lost, wounded, bloody; displaced within their own mind
and body. No good came from war, whether at home or abroad.
cold, hard facts made him feel detached, but thoughtful for there was
no going back, what had happened had happened. It was just a fragment
of his past. The barbed wire wouldn't tell him how his life had been
put to an end: whether he'd been shot or fatally wounded in some
other way. In the wrong place at the wrong time was all he would say.
A poor lamb who'd lain dead, his blood seeping into the earth, until
a deserter had stumbled upon him in his slumber, closed his glassy
eyes and quietly buried him.
least I was given my dignity, the poppy thought, others may not have
been as lucky.
barbed wire in his dry, impersonal tone continued his monologue:
There's no need now for you to dwell on this matter. Those living see
the beauty of the poppy, but also the colour red and remember the
bloodshed. You will never be forgot...
boy's soul could finally leave.
poppy was a poppy once more, just a red petalled head gently nodding
in the breeze.
Picture Credit: Peter Francis