A Soul Remembered: A Poem

I hope that this post will take you, the reader, on a journey. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, then you’ll know that I post many stories and poems that I’ve written over the years. However today, this poem is a little bit different because it’s accompanied by beautiful atmospheric photographs from Michael at Forties Photos! Michael and I “met” through Twitter, and share a love of World War II subjects and everything ’40s. He’s quite a photographer, and has been kind enough to help me out by supplying me with photos for my blog. I’m excited to share this collaboration with you, and I’m sure you’ll be as thrilled with it as I am.

A Soul Remembered

The atmosphere feels thick yet calm

In this place that I have known

The air sparkles brown and gray

With the dust of a weary day

sargeants-mess

And I hear voices; no, an echo

Memories are my only fellow

Each man, each friend, has gone home

In a place so busy I am alone

But still can feel what I used to feel

A joy electric, an accomplishment real.

camp-chaplins

Whether that lives here or just in mind

Has an answer undefined

Though I remember; remember well

The stories only these walls can tell

And a story much more unknown

More rare and precious, and not yet grown

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I remember you who know it too

Though you are gone, and barely in view

We had that chapter, over too fast

Now onwards, perhaps the story will last.

watertower

The doors are locked, the memory within

And I am their keeper, their guardian

The soul of this place chills me yet

As I look around I can never forget;

blast-shelter

Echoes of toil float through the air

The laughter, the hardship we had to bear;

Our footsteps, etched forever in dust

Remind me of your presence, and that I must

Live on in this place, for the soul still remains

Somedays a whisper, then louder refrains.

first-aid

But always in the quiet, I can near touch that soul

Voices fade, friends leave; but it won’t grow old

In a cheerless shell, it brings hope

Through monotonous days, it gives scope

And as the poisonous dust hangs ever low,

Through it I see you as you come and go

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You still exist here, somewhere in my heart

And here this great story got its start

Here I have lived, and many times cried

Here my feelings of doubt have died;

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Even as the soul sleeps, I know it is there

I can feel its breath, its life in the air

In the depths of silence, in questioning why

I find peace, in this place still alive.

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All photographs are attributed to Michael from Forties Photos, taken at former RAF base Metheringham. Check out the Metheringham Airfield website here, and be sure to browse more of Michael’s work here on Forties Photos!

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It’s Only a Page: A Poem

Everyone goes through phases in life. At the end of last year I left a tumultuous yet overall positive one; after leaving a job which caused me much stress yet taught me even more. It taught me to go through negativity with hope for the future, to enjoy the small things, and to take charge of not only my attitudes but my life as well. Even though we do face phases with definitive themes, every day is a new opportunity to create something great. That job overhauled my outlook; because through its adversity I realised that good things do still happen and changes are often not far off!

That job also brought me a number of really wonderful friends. These friends, along with the laughter, companionship, and support they give me, make all of life’s phases easier to deal with. Troubles seem a little bit lessened when you know you’re not alone. The following poem speaks to the different chapters of life, and the idea that even bad times don’t last forever and need not be faced alone. I hope it resonates with you, as it has come from a very honest place in my heart.

It’s Only a Page

If you are lonely

And do not feel whole,

Look not to your heart

Nor to your soul–

But look to the chapter

Which your footsteps now read

Some chapters are joyful,

While others spell need.

And do not despair

For it’s only a page

In the volumes of time,

Writ as you age;

Let your heart be glad

And your soul aware–

For one day, my friend

Your story I’ll share.

The Voguish Adventurer

When I was little, one of my dreams was to be an explorer like David Livingstone or Ernest Shackleton. The world seems very big and strange to a child, and I wanted the excitement of travelling and discovering new places and people. As a child, I thought that there were still islands and continents to discover; and that I could buy an old wooden ship and maybe a flying boat and find them all. Needless to say, that was a very antiquated, romanticised view! I’m much more informed nowadays, but I still love the intrigue of the days when the world was more unknown. Stories such as Howard Carter finding Tutankhamen’s tomb, Franklin’s doomed expedition in northern Canada, and even fictional ones like Indiana Jones captivate me.The Voguish Adventurer

 


I watched the 1999 film The Mummy last week, and although it hasn’t got the most realistic plot, I enjoyed it for what it was. Its theme of ancient Egypt and era of the 1920s inspired me to create this outfit; albeit a 1940s one! The Chanel shirt is smart yet relaxed, and combines well with the practical teal trousers and safari jacket. An alligator handbag and black pumps are ladylike but still sensible. The jewellery, with its pink gemstones, livens up the pastel tones of the Valentino scarf; and this is all topped off with a shot of red nail polish. I can easily imagine a well-heeled 1940s adventurer exploring the ruins of Egypt in this outfit!

The True Soviet: A Short Story

Let me begin this post by saying that I am not personally a Soviet, communist, or anything of the sort. That said, Soviet culture and particularly the culture and attitudes within the Red Army of World War II fascinate me. While I tend to look at Soviet socialism with a critical eye, and while this ideology had many sins and downfalls; it’s true that many people were very sincerely committed to it. There were citizens who believed that it was the best way forward, and who were committed to using it to its full potential. With that in mind, I wrote this short story; examining the actions of a loyal Soviet soldier throughout his unfortunate capture on the Eastern Front.

The True Soviet

The fascists captured me three days after they took Vyazma. I was still in the foxhole behind my machinegun when the panzers started rolling past. Ilya Soshnikov, my assistant gunner, had lain dead beside me for at least a day and a half; so I tried throwing grenades under the passing tanks instead of shooting. It didn’t have much effect, but I was determined to fight on. I felt sure that I would only leave the foxhole when the fascists dragged me out as a corpse.

Soon the tanks were gone, and the infantry appeared to liquidate the area. They quickly noticed that I was alive, and I quickly realised my stupidity. Idiot. It’s impossible to shoot yourself with a DP28, so I should have saved one grenade for myself. That would have been the Soviet thing to do. But I didn’t. I’d thrown them all fruitlessly under the tracks of the panzers. Thanks to my stupidity, the fascists caught one live and healthy Soviet that day.

I found myself being marched with others to a makeshift POW camp somewhere south of Vyazma. The journey was long and hard, and the fascists kept us going for hours at a time despite the speed of our pace. At the beginning of the march I was only angry at myself for allowing the fascists to capture me; but I became increasingly troubled and less angry as it progressed. I started thinking about what was to become of me. How would I, a true (if shamed) Soviet, cope in the hands of the fascist enemy?

The camp came into sight after many hours. It was set secluded in a valley, and though the sun was setting behind the surrounding hills it was easy to see that this camp offered no shelter. The fascists had tents to sleep in, but we prisoners had nothing. And there were hundreds of us, maybe a thousand. I despair that so many Red Army men have chosen the disgrace of capture. I did have the good fortune to meet another true Soviet who shared my shame– although he had less cause to feel shame than I do. Maksim Ilyich Belkin was captured a few miles from where I was, having been knocked unconscious by artillery. Poor soul, he woke up on the back of a German wagon.

A number of the other prisoners told me quite early on that I should consider throwing away my Party membership card. Needless to say, I balked at that. I will cling to my Party card like I should have clung to that last grenade! However, apparently the fascists have shot every comrade commissar to set foot in this camp, and my comrades told me they’re likely to shoot anyone with a Party card. That’s another reason for me to keep it. A true Soviet should be ready to die for socialism.

As the days passed, I became more and more tormented. There was some talk that we prisoners would be shipped to Germany to work in munitions factories there. I couldn’t tolerate such a fate, and confessed my fear to Maksim Ilyich.

“I won’t go to Germany,” I told him. “I will never help the fascists more than I already have.”

“Then what will you do? Will you escape and run away?”

I sighed. “I don’t know yet. I guess it would be possible to slip away from this camp at night.”

“You might never find Soviet units though, you’ve no way of knowing their positions,” he said. “And if you don’t rejoin the fight, that’s desertion.”

But it was worse than that. I know Soviet law inside and out, I’ve lived the Soviet life since I was fifteen years old; and I knew that I must find Soviet units again, but I could never rejoin the fight. If you’re captured by the fascists, you’re no longer worthy of being called a Soviet. The only thing left for you is death.

I pondered this for a few days, while also plotting my escape. Of course, I did think about ending it all at the camp; but the fascists had confiscated my knife, my razor, even my belt. I didn’t know how I was going to escape, but then Maksim Ilyich told me a plan which suited us both. We would wait until dark, and then he would attack one of the perimeter guards, allowing me to escape. We knew that such an attack would probably result in him being executed, but Maksim Ilyich was looking for a noble escape just as much as I was.

Last night was the night of our plan. I was sorry to leave Maksim Ilyich; as he had become a good friend and I saw in him a pure Soviet heart. If only I had kept one last grenade, I could have been an honourable citizen and soldier like he was!

“Good luck, my friend,” he whispered, shaking my hand. “I’m sorry the circumstances are what they are.”

I reciprocated his sentiment, and then he was off after the nearest fascist guard. As soon as the shouting began, I was off on my own way. Scrambling up the eastern hillside, I didn’t slow for anything– not even when I heard the single gunshot that was probably the end of my good comrade Maksim Ilyich. I stumbled on through the night, hungry and troubled and despairing that I’d let this situation come about. I traversed countless miles of ravaged terrain; and it pained me that the flesh of the Motherland had been cut so deep by the fascists I was sworn to fight. I have failed my Soviet duty, and must atone for it and be shamed forever. The only way to atonement is death.

Finally, a group of scouts found me. I felt both relieved and ashamed to see the Red Star worn so proudly on their uniforms. “Comrade!” They greeted me warmly. “Where are you coming from?”

“You won’t greet me so when you find out,” I replied, and explained to them my capture and my escape. When their expressions turned grave, I said, “I know. Just take me to the commissar.”

They did so, not speaking to me any further but giving me looks of both sympathy and disdain on the way. I was brought before the regimental commissar to face my fate– the regimental commissar, such is the severity of my sin. When I came before him, I expected to feel my spirit broken. But instead of shame and defeat, I felt mostly regret. What could have been… but there’s no sense in thinking about what I might have been when I can still control what I am.

The commissar began to speak, with all the harshness that I deserve. “You allowed yourself to be captured by the fascists. The Soviet soldier is worth more dead than in the hands of the enemy. You went through training, you had a commissar. You know this!”

I nodded. “I do.”

“Well, then. What’s your name? Sergei Yuryevich Petrokovsky, you have violated our solemn Red Army Oath, and are hereby sentenced to death.”

I nodded again, finding both relief and disgust at my sentence. How could I have done such a thing? As I was led to custody, I passed the commissar.

Scrutinising me with curious eyes, he said, “You escaped and made your way back here. You’re a Party member. You knew how we would receive you.”

I clenched my teeth until I could reply. “I might be a fool,” I said, “but I don’t desert.”

“Hmm,” the commissar shrugged, waving me away. “Well, that’s something.”

Today I faced the commissar, and tomorrow I face the firing squad. As I should. But I feel that the commissar was right, that is something. I was foolish in battle, and I must pay for it; in fact, I’m determined to pay for it. My life is useless now, but I won’t let even an unforgivable mistake separate me from my cause. I was too weak, but my comrades are strong; and I hope I’ve acted in the end like a true Soviet, even if I was never a good one. At the end, I stand by this oath of my beloved Soviet Motherland:

If, for some evil intentions, I violate this herein-solemn oath, let the Soviet Law, nationwide hatred and contempt of all the workers strictly punish me.

© Adair E. R. Jacobs, 2017

Dance of the Snowflakes: A Poem

Dance of the Snowflakes

The snowflakes dance to this new song of joy,

Like the angels did all those years ago

Their dance tells a story death will never destroy;

Describing a hope far brighter than snow.

The snowflakes are silver but they shine like gold

And glow like fireflies in the silent sky

Sparkling like precious gems in the night so cold,

Like the treasures brought by the faithful magi.

The snowflakes are like fair beacons of light,

Like the Star that shone over Bethlehem

Guiding the world through its long, dark night

Until the day when the Saviour returns to men.

The snowflakes are many, like the years of the earth

And like my blessings, too many to count

They demonstrate hope’s invaluable worth

And show us the peace that meek stable found.

The snowflakes still dance to this song of joy,

Like the angels did all those years ago

They speak of a love evil will never destroy;

A love which will set our cold hearts aglow.

© Adair Jacobs 2016

Glam for the Holidays

For me, Christmas fashion should be cosy, full of life and joy, and a little bit nostalgic– just like the holiday season itself. For years, dressing up for Christmas and my family’s annual Boxing Day celebration has been my fashion highlight of the year. I always try to wear something comfy and warm, with plenty of sparkling accessories as well!
Glam for the Holidays

 


This look encompasses everything I love about Christmas fashion. It has small reminders of years past, thanks to the ’40s style pleated skirt and peep-toe sandals. The jacquard purse and mink cape add a touch of richness and luxury, and the nude nail polish and red lipstick keep the look classic. However, Christmas is also about looking ahead and hope for the future; so I updated this outfit with a very modern white jumper. Finally, gold and ruby jewellery gives the holiday panache that is so important in Christmas dressing! Fashion at Christmastime should make one feel warm, contented, and hopeful, and I hope that this look does just that.

On the Winter Wind: A Poem

Winter always makes me think of the Soviet experience in World War II. The severity of the Russian winter made what was already a brutal and difficult war even worse; and there must have been some unimaginably bleak days for the soldiers who were trying so desperately to defend their Motherland.

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Artillery defending the vicinity of Moscow. Attribution: RIA Novosti archive, image #46802/ Temin/CC-BY-SA 3.0

Last night I wrote this poem, with the 1941/42 defense of Moscow in mind. For me, the Soviet Union’s Great Patriotic War was defined by great suffering and tragedy but also an omnipresent determination to go on. Even while being routed by the invading Wehrmacht in the first months of the war, people remained defiant and resolute in their cause. I hope you enjoy the poem, and its accompanying photographs of winter on the Eastern Front.

800px-rian_archive_2564_soviet_planes_flying_over_nazi_positions_near_moscow

Here, Soviet aircraft overfly German positions near Moscow. Attribution: RIA Novosti archive, image #2564/ Samaryi Guraryi/ CC-BY-SA 3.0

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A wonderful poster boldly stating, “We will defend Moscow!” By unknown author, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

On the Winter Wind

The winter wind is coming,

A wraith riding on his wings

Coming, closer, coming

And the wraith unearthly sings;

Its song not yet known to man

Harsh and fierce, it fills the sky

And now, now I understand

It sings a battle-cry.

The winter wind approaches

And on his wings is War

From homes and fields and trenches

We hear the cry once more

The cry of conquest, ages old

They come as men and leave as bones

Forgetting that we are Russian souls;

More stubborn here than stones.

Winter’s breath cannot break us,

Nor can War’s fatal song

Triumph will not be denied us;

When we see these frosty spirits gone.

The winter wind shrieks above

We sense the wraith’s most vile lure

But their assault is not enough;

We are Russian, we endure.

© Adair Jacobs, 2016

Russland, bei Istra, Flüchtlinge

A tank of Germans with what appear to be Soviet civilians, perhaps displaced. Attribution: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-B15686/ Gebauer/ CC-BY-SA 3.0

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On November 7, thousands of fresh troops marched through the heart of Moscow on their war to the front. Attribution: RIA Novosti archive, image #429/ Oleg Ignatovich/ CC-BY-SA 3.0

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German soldiers retreat through the snow and winter wind. From Druhá svetova válka strucné dejiny, nakladatelstvi Svoboda Praha via Wikimedia Commons, unknown author, public domain.

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Tankers go to the front with hope; their tank displaying the words “Happy New Year!”. Attribution: RIA Novosti archive, image #266/ Alexander Kapustyanskiy/ CC-BY-SA 3.0