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.

Tom Vaughan

If you have any thoughts on this poem,  Tom Vaughan would be pleased to hear them.