Duty of Care

Bayeux War Cemetery, Normandy

Not far from the breathing saline sea,
apple orchards, and yellow rapeseed fields,
rise perfect ranks of cream-coloured stones,
as if dressed right and at attention for roll-call.
The monuments, darkened by the stain of rain,
bear the regimental seal and name, rank,
and dates of each combatant, some graced
with a grieving mother’s adoring phrase.
Others are inscribed: Known Unto God

Nearby, the Bayeux Memorial commemorates
1,808 men with no known grave.

Thousands of these had drilled in uniform rows,
then endured months of dread and hours of chaos.
For them, order is restored. In this peaceful space,
wisteria flowers bow from archways, while stately
sentinel-trees shade the sharp boundaries between
grass and perennial beds at the foot of each stone.
Like medics and nurses fulfilling humanity’s bond,
gardeners tend the wounded earth with a duty of care.


David Olsen’s Unfolding Origami (2015) won the Cinnamon Press Poetry Collection Award. Three chapbooks from US publishers are Sailing to Atlantis (2013), New World Elegies (2011) and Greatest Hits (2001). His work appears in journals and anthologies on both sides of the Atlantic.