That Which Does Not Kill Us I & II


When first we met, I feared
That I would never bridge the great divide
Between my world and yours.
Your ire at being made
To cater to my whims was clear
In looks of sly derision and disdain
Exchanged with others when you thought I did not see,
Exasperated sighs each time my name was called,
And laughter when you saw my ‘tricks’ had failed.

Until we fought together side by side
And helped each other live but shared the pain
Of losing those within our charge.
For there emerged a flicker of respect,
A softening of that once unyielding glare,
Albeit slight at first.

Then came the night that pushed me quite beyond
The limits of the world I thought I knew.
You saw me broken and alone,
My magic spent, my mind entirely gone
And yet you did not flinch or look away
But anchored me with calm and gentle words.

And so on our return, I found myself
Avoiding others and began to seek
Your company, your reassuring smile,
The way you pressed a glass
Into my trembling hand
And spoke of my endeavours
Not with pity but with pride.

And when you came to call on me again,
Although I seemed to hesitate at first
In place of ‘our’ and ‘we’, my heart heard ‘mine’ and ‘I’
‘You are my man’
‘I have need of you’.
And so I followed you once more unto the breach.

Though ordered to protect the men,
I faltered as I watched the light
Extinguished from the eyes of those I knew.
And when I heard reports that you were lost
My spaniel heart grew teeth and claws
And turned into some other kind of beast,
My one desire to crush the life from those
Who’d taken from me all I held so dear.

And afterwards I sat with head in hands
And little care for who or where I was,
Just wishing I had stood before you
And allowed the bullet to take me
And died in ignorance of your fate
To spare myself this overwhelming grief.

But then in front of me I saw
A pair of boots in that familiar stance.
I raised my head and watched you wipe
A hand across your face.
To brush away the dirt or hide a tear I did not know
Until you met my eyes as if to say

‘The war is over, Merlin.
What will I do with you now?’


The war is over, guns are silent
Yet the echoes still remain
The last and desperate sounds of men
Who at the end knew only pain.

My arm hangs heavy by my side
I stand exhausted, until I
Am suddenly beset by terror
That drowns out the mortal cries.

I stride into the yard, attempting
To outpace the sense of dread
And certainty about the scenes that
I will find among the dead.

And as I stumble, weakly, through
The blood-drenched horror of this place,
I see a muddied, torn red coat,
A too familiar freckled face.

I try to tell myself that he
Has just lain down to sleep a while
And that he will no doubt awake,
Lips curled in a sardonic smile

His eyes aglint with gleeful mirth
As, reaching out to grasp my hand,
He chuckles “news of my demise
Appears to have you quite unmanned”.

But no. This will not do. I must
Erase these fancies from my mind
As anguish drives me on to search
For that I do not wish to find.

I know I shall become undone
If I should happen on that face,
Half frozen in surprise that he
Has found himself in death’s embrace.

That hand whose tremors touched my heart
Each time I held it as it shook.
Now stilled forever, magic faded,
Clasped around a ragged book.

The smoke thins out and I imagine
I can see that trembling hand
But this must be a waking dream
It is not real. I understand.

And yet I raise my glance to find
Him staring back with disbelief.
“They told me you were dead” he says,
His wild eyes brimming with relief.

I wipe my brow to hide the tears
That threaten to unravel me
And find myself, spellbound, replying
“I felt certain you would be”.


Poems by solitaryjo, originally uploaded onto Tumblr

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