Sarah Wedderburn – A word on killing

A word on killing



I’ll only say this once. Then I’m going back to writing about home,

journeys, everyday events and minor breakages—even they send

fragments far and wide.


After the murder of my father, who was stationed overseas, I couldn’t

bear that when they found the man who did it—possibly a dad—they

shot him in his bed.


My father was a soldier. This was peacetime. He’d been to the bank, was in

a Morris Minor, ferrying money to his troops. The killer was a criminal,

after easy cash.


When losing was so sharp, I couldn’t see how one more death made sense.

I was spirited at seven, fierce. Wanted justice. But that second bullet was

the first again. Despair.


Those two deaths were not political, defensive, personal or spat out

in the heat of war. They revealed to me, too young, that men—grown men—

are ruled by drives


so primitive they make a child look old. My story’s small. But scale it up

from households to whole peoples and you start to see. What I didn’t know,

while messing up


in later life, was how, through killings, roots get twisted, memories

and moods distorted, needs, compulsions, fears repeated, like they say,

down the generations.


Growing up, I couldn’t see a fictive arrow in a back, a sailor walk the plank

in black and white, spiralling Spitfires, or anything with guns. Still can’t.

I guess it was a sign.


We’re all friends here. We all agree. But what to do? The day my father

died I made a cake. Wonky, sunken in the middle. With a candle.

One small light to shine.


Sarah Wedderburn’s poems have appeared in Poems in Which and The Oxford Magazine. She was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize in 2013, and in 2011 was a finalist in the Third Annual Poetry Contest run by Narrative Magazine, the online American literary journal. She lives in East Kent.

11 thoughts on “Sarah Wedderburn – A word on killing

  1. Extraordinary, the style makes the judgement on both the events and the story teller. This gets complicated in the end, where I feel a drop in energy suggests the last two stanzas need another look. Down the generations as a final tail reverberates like an Ancient Greek lyric. Bravo!

  2. what a beautiful painful poem – I was lead by the hand of a seven year old into her entire life.
    the gift of words in the right place , with the right feeling is a tribute to instinct, longing and hope

  3. I dont have the words to explain my admiration for you and your beautiful, painful poem Sarah. Thank you and a hug is my inadequate response.

  4. Dear Sarah I was with your father just before he lost his life that trerrible day.
    Stanley Joseph Clark

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