A War Film

Source: Teresa Hooley, ‘ A War Film’, Songs of all Seasons (London: Jonathan Cape, 1927)

Text: I saw,
With a catch of the breath and the heart’s uplifting,
Sorrow and pride, the “week’s great draw” –
The Mons Retreat;
The “Old Contemptibles” who fought, and died,
The horror and the anguish and the glory.
As in a dream,
Still hearing machine-guns rattle and shells scream,
I came out into the street.

When the day was done,
My little son
Wondered at bath-time why I kissed him so,
Naked upon my knee.
How could he know
The sudden terror that assaulted me? …
The body I had borne
Nine moons beneath my heart,
A part of me …
If, someday,
It should be taken away
To war. Tortured. Torn.
Rotting in No Man’s Land, out in the rain –
My little son …
Yet all those men had mothers, every one.

How should he know
Why I kissed and kissed and kissed him, crooning his name?
He thought that I was daft.
He thought it was a game,
And laughed, and laughed.

Comments: Teresa Hooley (1888-1973) was a British poet from Derbyshire. This much-anthologised piece is a response to seeing Mons (UK 1926), a drama-documentary made by H. Bruce Woolfe for British Instructional Films about the British retreat from Mons in Belgium, which took place August-September 1914.