Narrative Poetry | World War I History

Home Fires Burning

As war raged in ditches and battle fields

Photograph Q 3990 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums @

Empty clothespins hung like readied soldiers off to slaughter
Our lives were like that then —
Harsh winters where clothes froze on lines
while troops lined up behind barricades too fragile to save them
Only the bitter cold prevented decimation, or the will of God

We carried in coal in the mornings —
Our hands and faces smeared with dust
We’d dip our fingers into ice cold water to wash it all away
while soldiers smeared icy mud on their clothes and faces
To blend in with the trenches

Mother relied on rations to feed three kids
Biscuits and water gravy were standards
If we didn’t want to starve — unlike starving
soldiers who barely had enough bread and beans

In the evenings, we chopped wood to bank the fires at night
Kindling first, then as much deadwood as we could find
Wet wood sat under tarps to dry
And green wood sat out in the elements to age
like unseasoned soldiers, so green they cried at night
They’ll toughen up real soon, if they survive

We did whatever it took to keep the home fires burning
While the men stood freezing in ditches —
some dying, some living, all wishing to go home
And the winter’s angry breath blew —
Abandoned clothespins hung like soldiers slaughtered in war

©2020 Lori Carlson. All Rights Reserved.

Lori Carlson writes poetry, fiction, articles, creative non-fiction and personal essays. Most of her topics are centered around Relationships, Spirituality, Life Lessons, Mental Health, and the LGBTQ+ community. Check out her personal Medium blog here.

Poet, Fiction Writer, Artist, Dreamer | “Enlightenment is when a wave realizes it is the Ocean” ~Thich Nhat Hahn