By Laura Cannon-Sherlock
He stands by the rough-hewn field
The maple leaf emblazoned on his beret;
Cane clenched in his gnarled hand
Eyes furtively searching the shadows.
With each laboured step
The pastoral tranquility dons a mantle of solace;
Gently the sun glistens, offering its delicate warmth,
As the labyrinth of tunnels unleash the fettered past.
We stumble through fields he and I; hands tightly clenched
Fields where inconceivable horrors strew young lives;
Death destroying bodies and dreams in defiance of hope,
Buried forever in the muddy abyss,
With each strained step, the sweet memory of childhood friends
Cascades wearily over his worn and shrapnel-led shoulders;
Forgotten enticements of adventure overseas
Laid to rest in this once despotic wasteland.
As dusk draws near, we stand in silence,
The oak tree’s sacrificial root and seed;
Immortalized in courage and hope,
Stratified through time and adversity.
Truth, Knowledge and Sympathy embrace us
Tenderly extending their olive branches before the crimson sky;
As the memories and voices of those who passed, echoing in unison
Soar forth to nurture and protect the Vimy Oaks, once more.
This poem is dedicated to my grandfather, Norman Dickson with whom I had the immense privilege of visiting Vimy Ridge before he passed away. At age 20, while attending the Ontario College of Agriculture in Guelph, he enlisted for the Great War with the Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry. He set sail on May 29th 1915 and served at Ypres Salient, Somme, Arras, Vimy and Mons until May 14th 1919 when he returned to the home farm with his new bride.