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Poems

War and Peace
John Redmond

War and Peace, by John Redmond, won the Richard Ellmann Prize for 1993-4. The Prize, founded by Seamus Heaney in memory of his friend Richard Ellmann, is awarded to the best poem included in each volume of Oxford Poetry. John Redmond's first collection, Thumb's Width, was published by Carcanet.


It was a war of inches on the shore
When we poured toy forces across it.
My brother's were crackshot Marines;
I had a team of Tommies and Jerries.
Little grey men, little green men
from one or other world war -
quite real except for their feet,
which swooped into surfboards.
They couldn't swim, they couldn't drown
and seemed at home in our terrain
of rockpools, fissures and weed.
A colonel might rise on a limpet
and lecture a shrimp, face to face:
He who is not with us is against us.
And we, we were Olympians thundering
the ambient cartoon flourishes:
Gott in Himmel, Gotcha, Verboten.

These days, listening to 'Good Vibrations'
I like to imagine my tiny conscripts
disarmed, stripped down to their briefs,
beginning to surf out of Galway Bay
with a hint of blonde in their quiffs
and empty hands fighting for balance.