Yesterday, I spent the afternoon in the First World War exhibition at the Imperial War Museum with some of the other writers who are taking part in the 26 Armistice Project. It was great to meet everyone, and thanks to Ed Prichard and Lisa Andrews for organising the event. Ed set us a writing challenge – to write a quintude, a fifty word piece inspired by an object we saw in the exhibition. There were so many poignant and powerful objects on display, it was hard to pick out one. But I was struck by the numerous ways soldiers hid their faces, mostly for protection, of course, although to me it seemed to symbolise the dehumanising aspect of war. So I kind of cheated and pulled together a few of these mask-like objects to form the basis of my quintude. It’s fifty words, excluding the title.
I wore a sniper’s mask
A canvas painted to hide my gaze
I swapped it for a gas mask
When the rattle sounded
Inside the tank I wore a chain mail mask
To keep the splinters from my mouth
All swapped now for a metal face to mask my wounds