A Passenger Known Unto God

British poet Ian Henery has likened the bodies found in the sunflower field in eastern Ukraine where Flight MH17 went down to the bodies of soldiers who perished in the Battle of the Somme in 1916. It was a battle of the First World War fought by the British and French armies against the Germans on both sides of the Somme river in France.

Henery, who is married to a Malaysian from Johor Baru, has penned a poem titled “A Passenger Known Unto God” in tribute to victims of the doomed MH17.

A Passenger Known Unto God

(In Memory of the Downing of Malaysia Airlines MH17 and the Centenary of World War One)

They no longer march with medals and pride,
The World War One veterans on parade.
We remember, their courage does not fade,
But their lessons learned have been cast aside.
To make this world a better place, they died,
It should have been the war to end all wars
But it was not - heavens rain blood and gore
From Gaza to Ukraine, children have cried.

A black and white photograph sets the scene:
In the filth of the Somme and left to rot;
The war to end all wars - but it was not! -
Uniformed skeleton, no fields of green.
Young poets’ dreams skewered on bayonets keen
And left unburied in the blood-soaked sod;
Butchered in a man-made hell, far from God,
Boys in uniform, some only fourteen.

The uniform is German in the mud,
Mouth in a scream and face turned to the sun;
Eyeless sockets, a distant horizon,
An unknown soldier, earth drenched by his blood.
A generation of men gone for good:
Legs outstretched, he reaches for his mother,
He could be your son, father or brother,
Photographs speak more than words ever could.

“Known unto God” - words etched on gravestones,
Composed by the poet Rudyard Kipling;
An epitaph for world wide suffering,
No loved ones to claim anonymous bones.
In the poppy fields, a lost spirit moans,
Identity lost, a skull for a face;
Soul in limbo, fallen far from God`s grace,
They who died in torment, unloved, alone.

Still we wage war in the name of power,
Must we really go through all this again,
Civilians murdered in the Ukraine?
Bodies left to rot in fields of sunflowers
Over which Vladimir Putin towers.
Photographs in the Ukrainian heat,
Bodies in fields strapped to passenger seats,
Abandoned by an explosive shower.

Blood flows more freely than it has for years,
Bodies in fields like soldiers on the Somme;
Innocent civilians killed by bombs,
The world’s oceans are swelled by children’s tears.
History repeating itself, our fears,
Photographs from Ukraine make us recoil;
Once again, children’s blood spilled in the soil:
“Passengers known unto God”, judgement nears.