The epitaph claimed the gunner's death
was instant--he was unaware of what struck
him down as he fired his weapon--
but the inscription was wrong.
When the shell exploded:
in that moment, he was no longer cramped in gun-pit
where pungent sweat and dank clogged nostrils,
for in that moment, he felt ocean breeze and inhaled
briny air--nasal ways clear for first time in months.
In that moment, he was not blinded by white streak
that swathed the sky before all went dark,
for in that moment, he gazed at rays ablaze on rolling
ocean, surf disturbed by descent of gull on wing.
In that moment, he was not paralyzed by enemy shell
exploding on edge of pit before he could take cover,
for in that moment, he heard his mother singing
Acadian lullaby: dors, dors, le p'tit bibi
-sleep, sleep, little baby.
C'est le beau p'tit bibi a mama
-You're such a lovely Mother's little one.
In that moment, he was not in a foreign land fighting
with 65th Battalion of the 1st Canadian
Light Trench Mortar Battery,
for in that moment, the gunner was home.
Share This Poem
This Poems Story
Debbie Amirault Camelin lives in Ottawa, Ontario. She is eighth generation Acadian with roots in Nova Scotia. Her poems are described as transporting readers through time and space on a journey both emotional and geographical. "The Gunner" tells the story of a twenty-five-year-old great-uncle who died in France during WWI, one month before the war ended. Debbie discovered the epitaph among other wartime documentation.