A Woman Looks on War

November 11, 2016

Mona Gould received a rejection for this poem when she submitted it to The Montrealer in 1939. Alvah Beattie wrote: “It is with a great deal of regret that I return A WOMAN LOOKS ON WAR. It is so true that I would have liked to publish it. Unfortunately, we are banded together in a common cause and the newspapers and the magazines of Canada must do everything they can to “sell” the war to Canadians; this notwithstanding the fact that we know what it is all about, and have to set aside any humanitarian viewpoint until the war is over.”

It was published in Gossip magazine in 1969.

A Woman Looks on War

She said:
“I am a woman,
And I am being perfectly honest about this calamitous war,
I resent it!
I know that’s taking the small view,
Not the wide … or as it is sometimes called, the long view,
But that is because I was born a woman
The very fact that I was born a woman
Makes me naturally a possessive person.
The fruit of my womb, for instance,
Is pretty much mine.
And I’m not altogether anxious
To have it become cannon fodder.
I know that doesn’t sound very patriotic
And I hope it won’t offend anyone in the War Office.
But I said I was being honest
And if I said anything else it would be a lie!

“It wasn’t that I had any plans laid out for him;
He would have been free to choose for himself his life work;
It’s just that I don’t feel it’s cricket, somehow,
For him to miss out on all the normal activities
The thousand and one mad and merry activities
That young men know in time of peace.
When people say they word “peace”, now,
They do so in hushed tones.
It’s suitable that they should do this
When the Dove lies dead!

“War, to a woman, takes on something the same aspect as child-birth
That is a strange and terrible battle, also,
But the blood let, is in a living cause,
And the hostage is a living thing,
And there is triumph even in the anguish.
War goes forward with the same implacable vigour.
The march is started … and there’s no stopping it
Til the thing is accomplished,
And the first … or last cry!”

She said:
“I am a woman.
And I am naturally a possessive person.
And I don’t give up my son to any cause
Even though it be noble and glorious and worthy of all sacrifice.
I know that’s taking the small view,
And I know there must be mothers made of sterner stuff than I am;
But I have said that I would be honest,
And I would like to have had something more for him
Than a few short years set to martial music
And the first … or last … cry!”

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