My Hands by Mary E. Harrison

(extract)

Do you know what it is like to have death in your hands?

When you haven’t a murderer’s mind?

Do you know how it feels when you could be the cause

Of a child being blind?

Let me cover my eyes as you cover the skies

Let me pray it can’t happen again.

Don’t show me the pictures you take as you fly,

They’re ruins and scape – little more.

Is all this part
Of the madness we choose to call War?

If there is a God up above who listens at all

Does he know why this has to be?

Did he give me my hands just to fashion the plans

That my own land may always be free?

Unlike the First War, during the Second World War many women served and wrote moving, poignant and sometimes cynical poetry. None more so than Mary E. Harrison, a story in herself. A WAAF artist in her early twenties, she modelled Koln for a thousand bomber raid. Comparing the photographs before and after, she was stricken with guilt. Overwhelmed by the power in her hands, she wrote this poem.

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