Remains - Simon Armitage (b. 1963)

Remains - Simon Armitage (b. 1963)


  • This poem comes from a collection of war poetry called "The Not Dead": Armitage interviewed many soldiers about their experiences and turned some of them into poetry.
  • Note the colloquial language.
  • Literary context: see the reference to Macbeth in the last line.
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Stanza 1

On another occasion, we get sent out

to tackle looters raiding a bank.

And one of them legs it up the road,

probably armed, possibly not.

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Stanza 2

Well myself and somebody else and somebody else

are all of the same mind,

so all three of us open fire.

Three of a kind all letting fly, and I swear

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Stanza 3

I see every round as it rips through his life –

I see broad daylight on the other side.

So we’ve hit this looter a dozen times

and he’s there on the ground, sort of inside out,

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Stanza 4

pain itself, the image of agony.

One of my mates goes by

and tosses his guts back into his body.

Then he’s carted off in the back of a lorry.

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Stanza 5

End of story, except not really.

His blood-shadow stays on the street, and out on patrol

I walk right over it week after week.

Then I’m home on leave. But I blink

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Stanza 6

and he bursts again through the doors of the bank.

Sleep, and he’s probably armed, possibly not.

Dream, and he’s torn apart by a dozen rounds.

And the drink and the drugs won’t flush him out –

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Stanza 7

he’s here in my head when I close my eyes,

dug in behind enemy lines,

not left for dead in some distant, sun-stunned, sand-smothered land

or six-feet-under in desert sand,

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Stanza 8

but near to the knuckle, here and now,

his bloody life in my bloody hands.

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Key Quotes to Learn

"probably armed, possible not" (x2!) - repitition of this whole phrase shows how vividly he's reliving this memory, PTSD.

"pains itself, the image of agony" - enjambment puts more emphasis on pain.

"dug in heind enemy lines" - 'dug in' is monosyllabic with plosives, very forceful.

"his bloody life in my bloody hands" - sounds unfinished like his lack of closure. Plosives create a dark deadly sound. Repitition shows how he won't forget. Blood as in real blood or bloody as in a swearword like anger. Allusion to Macbeth "wash this blood from my hands".

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