Inkster of the week - creative writing from Ewan Beadell

Thursday 24th March 2022

During this week's distance learning, Year 11 students were working on a creative writing task in response to some of the poetry they have been studying. Here's Ewan Beadell's work, inspired by Wilfred Owen's 'Arms and the Boy.' There are plenty of other clever links to Owen's work here too - you might recognise them if you've read his poetry before.

Arms and the Boy

I walked through to the armoury. I reached out my hands caressing the wooden butt of the bayonet. The cold of the weapon soaked through me as I brought it back to the officer.

Why does he have to do this? The harshness harms him. The power changes him and he thinks of what he could do. Whether it be good or bad will be told in time.

The blank white walls stare and the guns reach out to me. Racks upon racks of identical guns. Racks upon racks of identical rounds. Racks upon racks of identical blades and I choose the closest one to me.

“Get a gun,” he barked. I was still wondering why I had to be here.

“Where? Sir.”

“In the amoury dumbass.”

I walked through to the armoury. I reached out, my hands caressing the wooden butt of the bayonet. The cold of the weapon soaked through me when I brought it back to the officer. He told me to learn the weapon; I didn’t know what he meant. So I just stroked the cold metal blade and felt how sharp the sharpness of the blade was. I felt the blank walls staring at me as I fumbled with this destructive weapon. I pointed it. It felt heavy.

“Why do I have to do this?” I asked and all I got for an answer is, “You’re holding it wrong.” I was annoyed. With him and the weapon.

The officer dragged me to the firing range, took the gun, cocked and shot. The sound of gunpowder exploding flowed through my ears and punched my brain. He hit the centre of the clay target and expected me to do the same. I was still getting over how loud the gun was. 

I didn’t want to do this. I wasn't meant to do this. I should’ve been home sowing the fields. I should’ve been home, grinding grain; learning maths and writing English but I was in the cold and cold hearted military facility learning to shoot. To kill. If I did this, what would I be? Would I be bad? Would I be good? What if I didn’t? Lift the gun. It’s heavy, it dragged me down a hole and at the bottom my now fine zinc teeth no longer laughed around an apple.

It’s off course. No surprise of course.

The officer was not happy. He looked down at me like I was a beggar and I begged for his mercy.

To hit would mean I would be sent to camp but to have missed again would mean I’m useless and maybe I would be free. That or they’d send me to work in a factory making weapons like the one I used.

I decided to hit and it miraculously happened. He still looked at me like I was a beggar but now one that had a little change. This bayonet was my tomorrow but would it last for longer than that? Let me try along this bayonet-blade.

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The cold bites me as the muddy water laps into my too big boots. The malice of the bayonet is the only thing keeping me going in these misty woods. It famishes. Longing to sink into the hearts of lads; who like me don’t want to be here. I want to cry like a spoiled kid but I have to man up.

Arms and the BoyBY WILFRED OWENLet the boy try along this bayonet-blade
How cold steel is, and keen with hunger of blood;
Blue with all malice, like a madman's flash;
And thinly drawn with famishing for flesh.

Lend him to stroke these blind, blunt bullet-leads,
Which long to nuzzle in the hearts of lads,
Or give him cartridges of fine zinc teeth
Sharp with the sharpness of grief and death.

For his teeth seem for laughing round an apple.
There lurk no claws behind his fingers supple;
And God will grow no talons at his heels,
Nor antlers through the thickness of his curls.