John-Ward Leighton


in the fog of time
dwell the words
shiny from use.
The past receding at light speed
in this blink of life.
A journey made short by an uncertain present.
Voices drift up from the fog
and faces appear in mind’s eye
and the stories are gathered
in the fiction that is memory.

Small boys, brothers
sit with their mother
one on her lap
one in a carriage
as the regiment marches off in 39
not to reappear for six long years
much changed.
Years of travel from one end of the country
to the other
from Nova Scotia to British Columbia
sometimes with our mother
sometime in the tender care
of train porters called George.

Boarded out on prairie farms
when Mom took work at local
Airforce training bases
as young men from around the world
trained as navigators to guide bombers
to rain death and destruction
on civilians just like us.
Strict silence as the news from London
is read over the battery radio only turned on
for an hour each day.
And long departed sons
are prayed for by Mothers
who dread the delivery of telegrams
and live for the delivery of the censored mail.

Sitting in the present
trying to sort memory from
what you really experienced
and the stories you have heard.
Fifty one years from your own enlistment
in that regiment, which had marched away
fourteen years before.
Older NCOs with ribbons proudly wore
and senior officers, friends of my father,
guiding me through those first rookie years.
Then the first trip to the country of the conquered enemy
and a firsthand view of the damage wreaked
by the bombers guided by those same navigators
trained at the bases just down the road
from the farm we were boarded on.

A strange time
a war that isn’t a war except
in client states in the third world.
Hysteria whipped up over troop gaps,
and bomber gaps, and tank gaps,
and finally missile gaps
as the military industrial complex
seeks to maintain its grip on a nations wealth
and resources
Misguided adventures onto the mainland of Asia
by an ally fascinated by dominos
seeking to win a war already lost once
by another ally.
The collapse of the major enemy
and now no major enemies around
searching for that perfect enemy
and finding it in an ill defined word
and now war all the time
lies all the time
on the fast track to the poorhouse.

Nature has become unamused
from being constantly abused
by the elite’s fascination with
a bottom line for the next quarter
and the discovery that there are areas
of the world where semi wage slavery
still exists so they can ship jobs offshore.
It begs the question
if the peoples jobs are gone
who will buy your high priced junk?
A nation who would have us believe
it is the apex of freedom
with more people incarcerated
than anywhere else in the world.
The world warms up and islands drown,
hurricanes blow, ice storms abound,
droughts stretch into double digit years
as yet another picture of starving children
assaults our eyes on the evening news.

We amuse ourselves with trivial celebrities
while children die for lack of medication
costing pennies.
We huff and puff about a coming pandemic
while we ignore the current one
because it’s happening an ocean away
and certainly not in our neighbourhood.
Is this what those young men and women
suffered and died for when they marched away
those many years ago?
In our small corner of paradise
we hear the footsteps
of the inevitable disaster.
There has to be an answer,