Guest Poem: “Sandals on the Ground” by John Flanagan

a ProtoCorinthian Olpe ca. 650-640 BCE by the Chigi Painter depicting a Hoplite phalanx. Source: Wikimedia Commons

After keeping this treasure buried for over a year, the time has finally arrived to share this terrific poem about the Trojan War by John ‘Poet’ Flanagan. Entitled Sandals on the Ground, Flanagan had originally posted this poem on his blog, johnpoetflanagan.com. It didn’t just pop into my reader, it popped into my heart.

Instantly I contacted John about reposting Sandals on the Ground on my new site, TheShieldofAchilles.net. When he graciously agreed, I saved a copy in my drafts and plugged away at building the site because it was still in its infancy and not yet ready for blog posts.

To be honest, I’m very thankful that I saved this treasured copy of Sandals on the Ground because a restructuring of John’s blog has somehow managed to let this great poem slip through the cracks. I’m very happy to share it here and hope you will enjoy visiting his site to read many more poems that John has equally eloquently composed on a wide range of fascinating topics.

Born to Irish parents living in England, John spent most of his early life in Ireland. Pursuing a life of teaching and traveling (everywhere except South America!), he married into a Malay family and settled in Singapore. His evocative poetry and interesting stories have earned John a huge following of dedicated readers and his posts are always accompanied by positive feedback to which John always takes the time to respond.

Although covering an amazing breadth of topics, from PTSD in trench warfare to quantum mortality in at the breaking of the silver thread, many of John’s fascinating poems deal with local characters in foreign locations. Check out Marlboro Charlie and Blanche & Ophelia–they will delightfully reel you into his exotic corner of the world.

Diving into John’s mesmerizing short stories may just as likely deliver you to his 2014 post, Mess o’ Potamia, hooking you with the first line. “The Gulf crisis dominates the news,” John writes, “I can’t help but feel lucky i got out six weeks ahead of the invasion but my thoughts have a much gloomier side when i think of the friends i left behind and who are now in deep trouble.”

Clearly, John is intimately familiar with and has been personally affected by the turmoil, anger, and anxiety that war inflicts on the human race. I hope you will visit his blog and enjoy more of John’s writing. His classic poem, Sandals on the Ground, with its intriguing perspective from the enlisted soldier’s point of view instantly captured my heart and ensconced itself in the same treasure room reserved for all things Achilles. Enjoy!

Attic Black-Figure Krater, ca. 6th cent. BCE depicting two ancient Greek ships. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Attic Black-Figure Krater, ca. 6th cent. BCE depicting 2 ancient Greek ships. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Sandals on the Ground, by John Poet Flanagan

sandals on the ground
DECEMBER 1, 2015

we climbed out of a thousand hollow ships
as quiet we could and snuck ashore on moonabsent nights
a mild-mannered zephyr at our backs
we read as good omen after the paralysing calm
vengeful Artemis had inflicted
kill a sacred stag at your peril Agamemnon
venison can be a costly dish even for a king

shingle of the Troad shore denying purchase to sandals
we coaxed skittish horses through stygian swash
keeping fuss ‘n’ noise to a minimum
as if the Teucrians didn’t know we’d come
though our swarms probably surprised them
as much as they surprised ourselves

lugged the baggage of our betters
chariots tents feather beds lamb on the hoof slave girls
jars of dark wine for Menelaus and crafty Odysseus
and the man-slaying tackle of that skulking hulk Achilles
hero and darling boy of Athena

all for them
our lot olives and dull hard bread
we softened with oil sharpened with salt
our beds the strand

to win back one woman
or was that why we were there?

Helen
beauty we’d only heard fairytale celebrity
abductee violated loyal queen or bored wife
(we coolies conjectured) who ran off with Paris
because he was rough in the sack
whore to stir kilts and make us touch ourselves
inappropriately

another case of All for Hecuba
but what did it matter?

we jumped to attention ten years
at the voices of tented authorities
pretending to know what they were doing
adamant it’d soon be over
denying they’d misspoke and misled

ten years of fearing our own
[forebears of*] shaved-head brawn-neck in-your-face Spartans
questioning at first their ask-and-tell
envying over time faithful pairings

we the underclass wasting the horniest years
our women in the Cyclades at their ripest
for childbearing chances lost for a small place
of our own a goat and a few laying hens
we didn’t ask much but we didn’t come for waiting

and watching inconclusive skirmishes
a win here a loss there
while men died quick and slow
dysentery gangrene despair
no wonder we stole wine and got drunk

little to cheer save each sunrise and set
the shifting shades of water
when Poseidon stirred the sea
and the wind turned tail
and the shock ‘n’ awe of the sky
when Zeus put on his show

and night after worn-out night
we waited for a star to lead us home

~

The Fall of Troy and the Escape of Aeneas ca. 1540's by Giorgio Ghisi - Colorized by K. Vail. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Fall of Troy and the Escape of Aeneas ca. 1540’s by Giorgio Ghisi – Colorized by K. Vail. Source: Wikimedia Commons

*Added for historical accuracy

[Top image: Detail from the Chigi Vase – click for more info]

 

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8 thoughts on “Guest Poem: “Sandals on the Ground” by John Flanagan

    • Thanks so much Aquileana! You are right, and I’m really happy that you enjoyed this poem. Thanks for visiting, I’m always happy to ‘see’ you! Love and best wishes and hugs in return!

      Like

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