"Remains" was published by the British poet Simon Armitage in 2008 as part of his collection The Not Dead, a series of war poems based on the testimonies of ex-soldiers. Instead of detailing conflict, however, these poems confront the aftermath of war and the traumatic memories that ex-service people might struggle to cope with. "Remains" specifically focuses on a soldier who was involved with killing a man caught looting a bank during conflict in what is implied to be the Middle East. The poem is characteristic of Armitage’s conversational style, using colloquialisms and everyday speech patterns alongside vivid imagery to offer a realistic portrait of a person haunted by grief, guilt, and trauma.
On another occasion, ...
... armed, possibly not.
Well myself and ...
... all letting fly,
and I swear ...
... the other side.
So we’ve hit ...
... image of agony.
One of my ...
... of a lorry.
End of story, ...
... home on leave.
But I blink ...
... him out –
he’s here in ...
... my bloody hands.
Select any word below to get its definition in the context of the poem. The words are listed in the order in which they appear in the poem.
"The Not Dead" Review — A short review of the collection in which "Remains" is published.
"The Remains" Read Aloud by a Soldier — A British soldier who served in Iraq reads Armitage's poem in a Channel 4 documentary.
Simon Armitage on Poetry — An interview in which Armitage discusses the importance of poetry and why he writes.
PTSD and Shell Shock — A breakdown of the history of post-war trauma.
Armitage's Biography — An overview of all of Simon Armitage's life and work from the Poetry Foundation.
1On another occasion, we got sent out
2to tackle looters raiding a bank.
3And one of them legs it up the road,
4probably armed, possibly not.
5Well myself and somebody else and somebody else
6are all of the same mind,
7so all three of us open fire.
8Three of a kind all letting fly, and I swear
9I see every round as it rips through his life –
10I see broad daylight on the other side.
11So we’ve hit this looter a dozen times
12and he’s there on the ground, sort of inside out,
13pain itself, the image of agony.
14One of my mates goes by
15and tosses his guts back into his body.
16Then he’s carted off in the back of a lorry.
17End of story, except not really.
18His blood-shadow stays on the street, and out on patrol
19I walk right over it week after week.
20Then I’m home on leave. But I blink
21and he bursts again through the doors of the bank.
22Sleep, and he’s probably armed, and possibly not.
23Dream, and he’s torn apart by a dozen rounds.
24And the drink and the drugs won’t flush him out –
25he’s here in my head when I close my eyes,
26dug in behind enemy lines,
27not left for dead in some distant, sun-stunned, sand-smothered land
28or six-feet-under in desert sand,
29but near to the knuckle, here and now,
30his bloody life in my bloody hands.