By the Gate


The cloaked man waiting by the gate

Shivers in the warming day

The planned arrival’s running late

West wind drives the clouds away


The cloaked man taps his booted feet

Fumbles out a stained small case,

Stares at a photo; fingers beat

On holster; silence in his face


A movement down the uneven road

Pulls him to a straighter stance

The guards decant the expected load

Through the gate the groups advance


The gate is shut. He has to wait,

Hears a skylark in the sky.

The man’s gone through another gate

And like the load, begins to die.


My primary thought about this is that this is a German soldier standing guard when a group of civilians (Jews? Partisans? Villagers dying because a soldier was shot nearby?) are taken to their deaths. However, he could be a soldier or policeman of many other nationalities and causes, and only a few relatively inconsequential details (photo, holster, the implication that the “load” has been “decanted” from a lorry) prevent it being a picture of something happening in some ancient empire. It could be happening in Syria now.

The soldier, like many, cherishes reminders of family, home and loved ones. He has walled off his mind from the suffering of the condemned people. The poem suggests that this means a kind of progressive death – of mind and spirit.

Copyright Simon Banks 2012

Leave a comment


  1. “Birth and death; we all move between these two unknowns.”
    Bryant H. McGill….&the best thing about it is that it let us see the truth..

  2. LadyBlueRose's Thoughts Into Words

     /  April 14, 2012

    this has a huanting chill…
    your very description made me feel like I was watching him light up a cigarette, turning away diverting his attention with the skylark song…
    but still dying inside…
    I like this one..
    it to me shows the sadness of the choices we make in life even when we don;t make one



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