Today is National Poetry Day. I envy poets their facility with words and their insight into the way the world is (and we are). Poets open up the world and human experience in a way propositional thinkers simply cannot. What would we not give to hear our leading politicians (and preachers?) using language in such a way as to stir the heart … and not just wind up our minds?

I am not a poet. I have written stuff for years, but none of it is any good. But, at risk of proving the point – and in support of encouraging people to try – I offer what I wrote back on Tuesday 9 July 1996. Sitting with my then eight year old son on the wall of the Bayeux War Cemetery in Normandy, France, scanning the thousands of small white crosses, I wrote this:

A field of white stones

and simple crosses

with wishful words

and solemn epitaphs.

Known unto God means

we hadn’t a clue who he was.

Just another mangled inconnu

in a field of bloody might-have-beens.

Rest in peace sounds like an apology

for the hostility and brutality

of his untimely death.

I did not know him,

nor do I know those who miss him,

who still, half a world away,

miss the sound of his voice

and hear the agony of his eternal silence.

But I, also an inconnu, a nobody,

whisper an apology at his space,

and pray silently

for never again

and not for mine.