Anzio War Cemetery

Michael Elliott-Binns

Outside the civilian cemetery
With its cypresses and shrines
The pitiful rectangles of dust
Are dressed in military lines.
As I search for a name, the crosses
Grow roots under my feet,
Branching out in innumerable
Tendrils of private grief.
Death continually weaves his web
Between the sun and our eyes,
And bars of sorrow shadow the face
Of others as well as mine.
Silent and tall are the cypresses
On the other side of the wall
Perhaps in the depths of their dark hearts
Hides the reason for it all.
I return through the woods. The sunlight
Fumbles to the top of the trees,
And I feel like searchlights the hostile eyes
Ceaselessly sweeping the leaves.
And softly the sun goes down in gold,
And softly the evening falls,
And the stars come out, my comfort,
But they aren't any comfort at all.

The author writes:

I went to the Anzio War Cemetery on an expedition of private grief. Of this I will not write. But this I will say. The graves consisted of rows of little rectangles of parched earth, each with a white cross above it. They lie under the high wall of the civilian cemetery with its dark cypresses and shrine. On the other side you look out over the roofs of Anzio to the sea. When you in England look at the sea, your minds go out to all the continents and islands spread over the globe, which lie beyond it. It is different for us. Our hearts travel westard, through the Mediterranean, past the Straits of Gibraltar, over the great waves of the Bay of Biscay, to England. Somehow home seems much closer by the sea. I am glad that these men, some of whom I know, lie there. They seem to be buried on the doorstep of their home.