Karen Izod

Behind every fighting man are fifteen more

(Advanced Reinforcement Section, 2nd Echelon, June 1944)



You cried at the 50th anniversary.  It had been a long wait
for the defences of a logistics man to give way; for emotion to attack
the pride you took in two years of preparation. The beach
of collective imagination, its gradients, capacity, a crusted land
on which to mount this all-out offensive. Yours was not the only wave
of enthusiasm tempered with fear, and a ration of sweets to stay 

the pangs of home.  It was a slow scramble:  still time to stay
on that edge of youth.  Time to pack your dancing shoes, wait
for the bus, reach the point of departure, with no-one to wave
but a land-girl in her field.  And too early still for that attack
of nerves to reach your gut; ship sitting out storm in sight of land,
holding back its spillage onto the blackened rind of the beach. 

Caution throws in its lot, impatience ripples, irate Beach
Masters shout into the wind.  Panic surges with a tide unable to stay
its progress.  Now, this endless moment of men, this smoke, the land
too far, gradient  too steep.  Not enough to bear the massive weight
of forces gathering, foresight floundering, going under attack.  Attack!
You are the reinforcement, you are the second wave.
Even so, a port or some jetties would have been helpful.  Who waived
that particular request? Visible beyond the char of the beach
a village, church, farms, copses, very little air attack
that first night.  We are the reinforcement. Emergency rations stay
under wraps while we load trucks, stagger under the weight
of orders, schedules, armaments.  This is a green and fertile land. 

We follow the ravage inland,
count hands blown in a final wave.
Think we can wait?
Think life’s a beach?
You draft in another round of men, stay
close to your list, taking up the slack. 

Onto the Victory Ball now for your legendary attack
of the dance floor, your neatness of foot. You land
the first dance, rough serge on skin softens as she stays
for the next. “Joyce, my name is Joyce” she waves
from the stairs, and you call out  “Back home there is a beach
I want to show you.  The geese still come and… please… wait!” 

On the ebb of shot imaginations, waves
of guilt rasp along this beach, any beach.
You were very young, and nothing could wait. 


In Memoriam Robert and Joyce Brember

©  Karen Izod 2014

41 walking into the sun



A poem in which I learn what it was like to be my mother in the war

That day we learned that the earth moved,
and although I only lived next door
I was frightened that my house would have fancied a change
and decided to live on the other side of the sun. 

And that day, it was after home-time and getting dark
when you spilled out of the shelter into the school yard.
And although you only lived down the road,
you didn’t yet know whether your house 

was standing still, like a good girl, or had upped sticks
and gone. 


©  Karen Izod 2014



Karen Izod is a consultant, coaching practitioner, and academic working in the field of organisational change, and has designed programmes with and for the Tavistock Institute and the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust. She is the co-author of Resource-ful Consulting: Working with your Presence and Identity in Consulting to Change (Karnac, 2014), and co-editor of Mind-ful Consulting (Karnac, 2009). Her poetry has appeared in Agenda ‘Requiem: the Great War’ and Attachment magazine and she has written evocatively about the correlation between inner and outer landscapes. Her writing on relatedness to the environment has been long-listed in the 2015 New Welsh Review Competition: ‘People, Place and Planet’.

2 thoughts on “Karen Izod

  1. Really love both of these poems. The repetition of beach/wave/wait/attack/stay/land works brilliantly because it reflects the relentless drudgery of war. And the personification of the house – good girl or upping sticks is really imaginative and injects humour into what must have been a dreadful recurring worry.


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