Some poems by James Milton



1. A New Jerusalem

I vowed to thee my country all earthly things above
I donned a soldier' uniform and left the ones I love
I took another's country
I stole another's land
And fought there with my countrymen
Who died amidst the sand
And though we went there willingly
War’s flame that burnt so bright
Consumed my love of country
And faded into night

Yet now I've left the colours
I see the foe at last
Not those of other nations
Nor enemies long past
Our evil lies within us
Those men who can't see wrong
Who for the love of power
Will sacrifice the strong
They've cast away our history
They've torn up all our laws
And thrown our nation's young men
Into endless petty wars

But now's the time of reckoning
And now the tide has turned
Our faith shall be rekindled
False idols will be burned
And from the pain of suffering
And from lost innocence
We'll resurrect our country
Regain our inner sense
We will build a new Jerusalem
In this green and pleasant land
And our work will stand as legacy
To the dead left in the sand.


2. A soldier’s lot

Son would you be willing
To take up the monarch’s shilling,
A serving of her majesty the Queen?

To continue the tradition,
Through triumph and derision.
Go where your Pa and Grandpa both have been.

See your best friend die
Whilst he looks you in the eye,
To satisfy a politician’s pride?

View the face of war
And all that’s been before,
Yet know the real villains won’t be tried?

Be the one night darling
Of that harlot called the press
And then to be forgotten on the morrow,

With their articles of glory
And pay cheques, fat like rats
Fed upon the images of death and sorrow.

Follow in the footsteps
Of two centuries of men,
A banner that has flown for Britain’s freedom,

Then hear of its demise
Because we must all downsize,
And heroes in this day who really needs 'em?

Be so very blind
To the one you left behind,
For the needs of love are constant, harsh and cruel

And when you’ve done your duty
You no longer have your beauty
She’s gone, left you behind to play the fool.

But, if my words won’t hold you back
And you’ve set yourself the track
To serve your country well, without regret

Remember this

When the hunting dog is old
He is cast into the cold
I hope your master, unlike his, does not forget.


3. The Eagle and the Lion

The Eagle and the Lion conspired,
Though one was dumb and one was wired,
To steal the land of midday sun
Where Jackal ruled and black gold runs
They formed their plans and primed their guns
If you’re not fighting, war is fun!

Rifles barked and cannons roared
We sat at home and soon grew bored
Cities burned as planes dropped bombs
The cameras filming, off and on
And when dust settled, battle done
The Eagle and the Lion had won

But Jackal was a cunning foe
Silver tongued and none too slow
He mocked the duo, briefed the press
Called “this wicked war a mess”
Sent out agents, issued orders
Unleashed chaos in his borders

All throughout this sorry land
Brave young men fought hand to hand
Soon bodies of both sons and lovers
Were shipped home to their grieving mothers
And while both countries’ leaders lied
Their nations’ youth ignobly died.


4. Children of a lesser war

We are children of a lesser war
A petty skirmish, nothing more,
The bluebirds won’t sing over
The white cliffs of Dover
For us,
There’ll be no fuss

Just a footnote in our history
No Vera Lynn, no mystery
No Nazis in the countryside
Or turning back the evil tide
Just tattered gaps in people’s lives
Grieving wives

No fly-by at the Cenotaph
Sing songs where people laugh
Through the Blitz,
Defying Fritz
We envy them that cause
Not like our wars

No equals in Afghanistan
No tussles man to man
No Luftwaffe in Iraq
No Bletchley Park
Just car bombs and smell
A cut price hell

No Winston, just windbags
We won’t see waving flags
Just body bags and sad parades
Until a sordid peace is made
Nothing solved
Nothing gained


5. Going Home

There’ll be no extra drill now,
No PT and no bull,
No stagging on in barracks
Or going on the pull.

No gripping from the Sergeant,
No scoff in the canteen.
You’ve done your final duty,
Your record’s true and clean.

And the boys will gather round now
To see you on the plane,
Away from dirt and misery,
Away from dust and pain.

Your family will be waiting,
Your girl will wear her best,
As we take you back to hearth and home
To lay you to your rest.


6. A soldier’s prayer

God give me a bird
And some booze and a bed
And a tv with Sky
In a house by the Med

And my mates in that same house
With birds and booze too
And a town down the road
Where there's something to do

Not this bunk in this camp
The sand and the waste
That gets in the air
Gives all food the same taste

Nor the heat and the wire
The grey sullen looks
As we tab down the streets
Past the shops and the sooqs

Or the threat of an ambush
Being bumped unaware
The car bombs and mortars
This slow grinding fear

For the bullet that gets you's
Not the one that you hear
And the blast from the bomb
Never reaches your ear

In fact God forget it
I see I've been greedy
In war as in life
It don't pay to be needy

Birds and booze come and go
That's a plain simple fact
Just get me home safely
My bollocks intact


7. One man went….

One man went to mine,
Went to mine a meadow,
And the meadow was filled with green lush grass
And a house with a dog
And a family
In the meadow that the man mined

Ten men marched across,
Marched across that meadow,
And one blew up ‘cos he stepped on a mine
And it took off his foot but the others were fine
And the guns opened up and the family died
In the meadow that the man mined

And now there’s no meadow
In the meadow that the man mined,
And no travellers walk
And no people talk
And no crop is raised
And no animals graze
In the meadow that the man mined.


8. Death or Dishonour

We give no thought
When we’re caught short
In London or in Rome
We just nip in
With a cheeky grin
To a shop or someone’s home
But if nature calls
When you’re under fire
And you reckon you’re a gonner
You face the most
Unsavoury choice
Between death and dishonour


9. Purgatory

I run into the road
Escape my mother’s arms,
The sudden noise has frightened me,
Then something knocks me down

and
We close in on the house,
Cock rifles and disperse
Someone rushes from the door,
A shot cracks out, they fall

and
I look down at the map
Surrounded by my staff,
Hopelessly thinking there’s no way out.
I can’t do what they ask

and
I stand upon the podium,
Face down a hostile crowd
As I speak about democracy,
A greater good for all

and
Pain rips me from inside.
I call out to my mother.
She runs into the road where
The hard air cuts her down

and
Christ’s sake stop firing!
It’s just a child and mother.
I rush to see what I can do
But then the bomb goes off

and
A man is by my side
His eyes downcast, he’s scared to talk
He takes me by the arm and says
‘Your son was on patrol …’

and
The jeers wash over me
My party hates me and the press
Lampoons me with my error,
Why am I the one to blame?

and
It stops all of a sudden
and
I know for a moment that this is hell.

I wake again in the arms of my mother
Who holds me tight ‘cos the soldiers are coming.


10. Child’s Play

Sing a song of Helmand
A death trap for the Brits

Car bombs on the corner
And food that gives you squits

The money for the lad’s kits
Was squandered on MPs

So instead of helicopters
We have ornamental trees


11. Just because you can..

I sat south of Fallouja by
What once had been a factory
Producing God knows what
But now it housed our boys

Lined up in rows of camp beds
Surrounded by a sea of kit
Pistols, rifles, smoke grenades
And other deadly toys.

Hank was sat beside me
From the State of Alabama
United States Marine Corps,
As solid as a brick

But Hank for all his muscles
Was sharper than a razor
If your job is bomb disposal
You last longer if you’re quick

“How you doing Sir?” he asked me
As he rolled a smoke beside me
We sat there in the morning air
Stayed silent for a while

Then Hank lit up his cigarette
Pulled out two cokes, gave one to me
Took a pull and then he turned
And said this with a smile

“I’ve been out here for near a year,
I’ve lost a friend, I can’t drink beer,
There are no girls, not much to do,
The locals don’t like me or you”

(A pause, but Hank’s not finished yet,
He took a drag on his cigarette)

When I get back home to the States
To see my girl and family
I’ll lead a special campaign so
That wars like this don’t start

To have inscribed above the door
of Congress and the Senate
and the White House, these eight words
That everyone should learn by heart.

‘Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.’

And I said

‘Good idea Hank.’


12. The Wife’s prayer

Teach me not to love you
I don’t want to grieve
Please turn my heart to stone
Every time you have to leave

Packed upon a plane
Taken from my life
When you become a warrior
I would not be your wife

I would not sit awake at night
I could sleep sound instead
But your absence is too obvious
Alone in this empty bed

Every time I’m at a party
I’ll remember you’re not there
All those moments you would comfort me
Run fingers through my hair

The good times and the bad ones
When we’d shout at one another
I miss the things you mean to me
Husband, friend and lover

Kill off my flames of passion
Let each die out in turn
Then teach me how to love again
Upon your safe return