Today I walked out to the Long Nanny burn in the Bay, and thought of British people in 1940, preparing for an invasion from Hitler’s Germany. Thank God, that attack never came. But the ruins of our concrete pill-boxes, tank blocks and barbed wire entanglements still lie buried in this peaceful place, together with the chassis of old motor cars, strewn on the beach to prevent gliders landing. From time to time, these signs of our troubled past emerge from the sand.

“Pick up a gun…prepare Molotov cocktails…donate blood…sign up to fight the cyberwar if you are a hacker.” As I write, that is what is asked of every citizen of the peaceful, democratic country of Ukraine, currently suffering unprovoked invasion by Putin’s armed forces – an appalling attack on the values of peace, democracy and freedom.

Peace is not a given. It requires vigilance, justice, and strength to defend it. In my view, the three decades since the fall of the Berlin Wall have been long enough for many in the West to forget this. That statement applies across all NATO countries, not just our own. It is true in so many ways, from our undermining our own precious freedom of speech, to our acceptance of Russian money or gas, or our responses to Putin’s earlier aggressive acts – even, in the U.K., when he poisoned people on our own soil. Words cannot change anything. They cannot help Ukrainian people at this appalling moment. But I am a poet; so here, for what it’s worth, is a poem. We should never forget what it takes to defend peace and freedom. Or that the river constantly changes its course.

Photo: K. Porteous

From: The Lost Music (Bloodaxe Books, 1996)