An Armistice Day Remembrance

I spent most of my adult life in the academic world. One of the foci of my studies was a little-known Canadian war poet and writer, Frank Prewett. I think of him always on Remembrance Day. And in doing so, I think of all veterans who have served us.

Prewett was born in Kenilworth, Ontario, on highway #6 (“the Owen Sound road”) just northwest of Arthur. He went to the University of Toronto and enlisted with the Eaton Motor Machine Gun Brigade in 1915 and saw action in France.

He injured his back when he was blown from his horse by a mortar shell. He suffered crippling pain from the injury and was diagnosed “neurasthenic” (probably what is now PTSD). He also served in WWII.

Prewett struggled much of his life–as much with his war experience as with being a writer and poet. He attended Oxford University after the war and dabbled in friendships and relationships with folks like Robert Graves and Siegfried Sassoon. He worked with the Oxford Agricultural Institute researching and writing about things agrarian.

Prewett died a lonely, cold and troubled death in northern Scotland in 1962, where he raised cacti and tortoises. One of his poems, “Card Game,” was written in 1917 after the battle of the Somme.

Hearing the whine and crash
We hastened out
And found a few poor men
Lying about.

I put my hand in the breast
Of the first met.
His heart thumped, stopped, and I drew
My hand out wet.

Another, he seemed a boy,
Rolled in the mud
Screaming, “my legs, my legs,”
And he poured out his blood.

We bandaged the rest
And went in,
And started again at our cards
Where we had been.

 

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