A forest near Toulouse

The mist of mountains brings in tears of rain
Where charcoal burners sought to set up home.
The forest floor is thick with fern again
Their labours lost, their bodies buried bone.
Strong men cut trees to feed the furnance mound
The smaller boughs formed shelters where they slept.
As darkness fell their families gathered round
So far from homes in Florence, women wept.
Young men reap death on fields they did not sow
In Ypes, Verdun the slaughtered sons of France
The migrants had no choice of where to go,
But played their part where love then stood no chance.
In silent tribute to the dead we stand
Where ghosts are working still this unclaimed land.

note – charcoal burners from Italy had lived with their wives and children in make shift tents during the Great War. One of the women described her life as a ‘sea of tears’.


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