A Poem for Today, Yesterday, and Tomorrow

I wrote this one year ago today on Armistice Day. It’s been gathering metaphorical dust in the computer since, as my focus has been more on my health, other personal matters, and our current dystopia this year than poetry submissions. Thus, I decided I might as well share it here for you fine folks and what better day than today? I didn’t set out to write this poem. It just kind of tumbled out, likely after listening to “The Green Fields of France”, “Christmas in the Trenches”, and “Zombie” one too many times. (If you haven’t heard the modernized version of “Zombie” for the 21st century, go listen to it now.)

As a military brat and a student of history, I have a complicated relationship with things like Memorial Day, Independence Day, 9/11, and Veteran’s Day/Armistice Day/Remembrance Day. I tend to avoid the internet on those days, as it just underscores my feelings of isolation and frustration. But this seemed like something worth braving the internet to share. I know many better poems about war have been written by those with more firsthand experience than I, but these are the words I have for today, my small offering to the fallen and dispossessed of wars past, wars still raging across the world, and wars yet to come.

Interestingly enough, today is also St. Martin’s Day/Martinmas, also known as Old Hallowmas/Old Halloween, so the idea of today and this time of year in general (on the heels of Halloween, Allhallowtide, Samhain, Día de Los Muertos, and the harvest time) as an occasion to remember, honor, fear, supplicate, celebrate, and turn our thoughts to the dead or the dead landscape surrounding us was around long before World War I gave 11/11 its modern meaning. It is a time of ghosts, of death, of survival, of mourning, of taking stock/counting our blessings/warding off misfortune as we prepare for winter, of accepting the inevitable darkness to come, and of the burden and importance of memory.

Many of these themes and mythologies have found their way into my writing, from the backdrop of WWI and prominent Irish Halloween lore in Beneath Blair Mountain to the “Solstice Walk” in “Yuletide Carols” that was borrowed from modern St. Martin’s Day lantern walks to the harvest/sacrificial motif that dominates my forthcoming WWII fairytale retelling “The Corn Wolf’s Tithe” (more on this to come). May they in turn inspire you.


There Is a Sadness in My Soul
by Shannon Barnsley
Written 11/11/17

There is a sadness in my soul
for wars long gone and bells long tolled.
Their battles all but lost to time.
Their songs a half-remembered rhyme.
I feel them each with every chime,
now faint an echo in wearied minds.

Their hardships, orphans, and palls all born.
Their widows hardly left to mourn.
Though countries, families, may still be torn,
the heat of war now muted scorn.

There is a sadness in my soul
for wars still fought as bells are tolled.
For war-torn maps all stained in red
as refugees seek roofs and bread.
For children who lie awake in bed;
the sheep long gone, they count the dead.

And those back home who wonder when
they’ll hold their love or see their friend.
Ever the worst war there’s ever been,
a coming darkness without end.

There is a sadness in my soul
for wars to come and bells yet tolled.
For battles we may yet need to fight
and songs we shouldn’t have to write.
Yet sing we will when falls the night.
It ever falls. Because. Despite.

We won’t see the gathering storm above,
the horrors brewing yet dreamed of.
For the hawk is still today a dove.
Tomorrow’s widows yet to fall in love.

There is a sadness in my soul
for each war fought and each name tolled.
Like lightning each tears across the night.
And so we run. And so we fight.
Then goes as fast as came its might.
Left in darkness, we search for light.

Those left alive may wonder why
another bolt need tear the sky
or why any they bury had to die.
Then lightning fast for war they cry.

3 thoughts on “A Poem for Today, Yesterday, and Tomorrow

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