Pillboxes, Brittany

We use one for storing wine,

the other as a changing room

before and after a swim –

in it are also piled

wet-suits and worn surfboards,

flippers and rusty boules,

and some old, torn shrimping nets.

For those lying on the beach

they’re hidden behind a hedge

which wasn’t there when they

protected the lonely men

who gazed far out to sea

wondering each day

if where bodies now sunbathe

soldiers they had killed

would sprawl upon the sand,

and who must have asked how long

their bullets could withstand

wave after wave of those

who’d survived their longest night

to land where bored lifeguards

provide our oversight.


It didn’t happen here

but maybe they died elsewhere

in the last months of the war

or made the journey home

to whatever was left of their past

and their grandchildren come

with their own families

as tourists, and today

are scrambling on the rocks

or plunging in the swell

not knowing they’re at ease

where he unrolled barbed wire,

and that as they eat their picnic

they’re in his field of fire.


Published in Snakeskin 265, October 2019