I’m proud of you son, Dad.

Six words that have resonated with me for years. Six words etched into a tombstone at the Kanchanaburi War Memorial, Thailand. The tombstone of a 19 year old soldier. Someone’s son, someone’s world:

One spoonful of dirt-soaked rice
Supports the day’s lumber so heavy.

Heavy like the afternoon monsoon,
Each drop just more weight to bare.

Bare feet blistered and shriveled,
Stuck like glue in the muddy clay.

Clay-laden hands, splintered and weak
Wipe salty beads from weary eyes.

Eyes wandering in support of mates
Helpless checks whilst still driven forth.

Forth by an enemy guard’s ruthless directions
Towards rails end or towards our own.

Own a thought of fresh bread and clean water
And you’ll survive this repeating day.

Day that sleeps now as the night rolls in,
Curled up next to mate of skin and bones.

Bones clambered together for warmth
Rain driving down on naked bodies starved.

Starved of hope, of life and of dignity.
The hopeless at night, lie strewn in the morn.

Morn breaks and you see them, gone. Lifeless.
Rigid and broken. A prelude? Or the lucky few?

Few know the horror and suffering
Of these, the captured sons.

Sons who joined a fight for freedom
Now wearily marching the rail as one.

One spoonful of dirt-soaked rice
Supports the lumber so heavy …