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.
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.
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
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,
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.
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
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 –
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,
but near to the knuckle, here and now,
his bloody life in my bloody hands.
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".