When Holly Peters undertook the honorary position of Young City Laureate for Plymouth, in the city's Mayflower 400 commemorative year, she never could have imagined that on accepting, she'd have to adapt to the idea that the commissions she undertook might have to be delivered online.
Today marks the 75th anniversary of VJ Day and, whilst the following poem cannot be shared at a commemorative event in the city, Holly asked us to share it with you here.
A Photo Album of '45
It’s tied with a fraying ribbon and
Bursting with memories.
A photo album: all black and white,
but if you look past the glossy paper
you can see the colours, still bright.
Dates and places scrawled in a sinking cursive,
Tracing our fingers over unknown faces,
So that we don’t forget stories that need to be told
Sacrifice and loss.
Watching the past unfold.
Stuck in a frame, trapped behind clear glass.
Snapping photos because that feeling of the ground
Shaking beneath your feet,
Rumbling like an atomic bomb –
That’s history: a contorting beat.
Soldiers climbing up traffic lights –
As though anyone could’ve missed the news –
Shaking proud papers in the air
The way they’d waved their white flags.
Uniform suddenly lighter, easier to wear.
Paper covering the streets like confetti,
Their faces blur into one,
PEACE the headlines scream –
Expression like they can’t quite believe it,
The broadcast nearly a dream.
A river of people dancing in the square,
Not able to just sit still
Fingers intertwined, zigzagging lines,
Forgetting dark clouds,
Enjoying the sun while it shines.
Standing on the wings of a plane,
Hats soaring into the blue,
Propellers no longer whirring round.
Narrow shoulders, barely men. Their
Feet planted firmly on the ground.
Sighs of relief sounding just like a cheer
Impatient kisses that have waited six years,
The camera knows it’s a different gleam of grey,
Hearts full to overflowing,
Putting the pain on pause for just a day.
Japan quits, surrenders. Not just defeated,
But destroyed. Choking trees as skeletons.
Rubble and dust. Scenes from a nightmare.
A looming hand grabs the photo
Wondering: “how did those get in there?”
The last of our enemy laid low
Eyes of a creature slipping under murky water.
Except the girls curling themselves small,
Sobbing into their trembling hands
Don’t look like beast at all.
All the photographs laid across the floor,
Moving too quickly to capture the fine lines,
The weathered minds. Remember:
Yours to pass down to the next.