Hunting short poem

Last night the harbourer
tracked the stag to his resting place,
and at sunrise made a close inspection
of the perimeter of the wood,
to ensure he had not escaped.
When the Master heard this,
and was satisfied,
he ordered the release of the hounds
that had been barking at our heels
all morning.

Then, a moment later,
from where I lay,
in dew damp grass,
I saw it
break through the tree line,
a flash of royal red,
and I followed it, panning;
hooves thundered above barks,
until it reached the river;
where it stopped and turned
and faced down the dogs.
In the cross hairs I saw
every hair on his neck,
counted each of his fourteen points,
I looked him in the eye,
and could not,
in all conscience,
pull the trigger.

Valentine’s Day 1945,
lying in the nose of a Lancaster,
8000 feet above Dresden,
my heartbeat drowned
out the roar of four
Rolls Royce Merlin engines.
I lined up the burning city
in my Blackett bomb sight.

I never heard
the children running,
or saw the hairs on their heads,
or the whites of their eyes.

This poem is part of the Poetry Book Black Eyed Peace

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david atkinson

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Irish poet, who spent his early years in Belfast and now lives in Coleraine with his wife and 2 children. His first collection "Thomas" was published by Lapwing in 2005, and his second collection "Black Eyed Peace" has just been published. It is available as either a free eBook or in traditional printed format. His work has been widely published in magazines, anthologies, and on-line. His work has also been broadcast and published by the BBC and a number of his poems have achieved competition success. He has been involved with the Ballymoney Writers for over 15 years and has edited and published 3 collections of their work.
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4 Comments on "Hunting"

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Wow David so vivid opposites a stag and Dresden. I drew in my breath as my own
mother had told me about the bombing of Dresden a horror of war, she was there!
But yes after my first thoughts I read again a few times and it is so
true what we actually see it would indeed be a lot harder like the shooting
or not of the stag.
Quite ingenious after my initial shock.


David thank you for your reply. Mother said at the time the family came up from
the cellar in there house. The house was destroyed but every clock kept ticking. She remembered
her fathers words (don’t hate) !! unfortunately she took no heed. That was a sad reflection on
my mothers life. Yes war indeed considers no-one although these days some so-called soldiers
look people in the eye and chop their heads off. Sad very sad all around. Yes I read your
poem to my own son and he a passed soldier said yes war ingrains in the mind but your poem
sees another side.

Bill Peeler

Excellent imagery and contrast.


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