In Flanders Fields


In Flanders Fields the Poppies Grow

Posted by Dick Pellek in Defining Moment

On the road…again!!!

Essays, Stories, Adventures, Dreams

Chronicles of a Footloose Forester

By Dick Pellek

In Flanders Fields the Poppies Grow

Of the many poems that haunted his imagination from grammar school, the one about a field of poppies in Ypres, Belgium had enough staying power to remain as a fragment in his memory for his entire life. Such is the power of poetry. Ironically, the imagery of a velvet carpet of red poppies was not about flowers, it was about gravestones; the white crosses that marked the graves of soldiers who had fallen in battle.

In Flanders fields the poppies grow,

Between the crosses, row on row

Over the years the real meaning of the poem has been obscured, indeed the Footloose Forester never committed the entire poem to memory. But the imagery of an entire field of red poppies swaying gently in the wind never evaporated. As it turns out, some fifteen years later he would see more than one field filled edge to edge with red poppies. Needless to say, it immediately conjured up the 1915 poem about Flanders fields. Truth is stranger than fiction.

Like so many memories that are no more than passing flashes of reverie, the image of poppies in a poem was reinforced by the sight of real poppies in the sunny springtime hills of Italy. It was always an open question why farmers would choose to plant such large expanses of common poppies, but they do. Joyfully, there they were, a marvelous sight to see and a privilege to behold. The scene will forever remain in his memory.

A secondary memory that cements the occasion is linked to his brother Joe. We were driving to Rome in a Volkswagon Squareback wagon that the Footloose Forester had purchased in Frankfurt, Germany earlier that spring. After a stop at a Mom and Pop store near Pisa to buy lunchmeat, cheese, and fresh bread we continued singing our way south into the warm sunshine of the Italian countryside. Perhaps something didn’t agree with Joe because as we were winding our way past one, then another, field of bright red poppies…Joe demanded that we stop the car. He had to take a crap so urgently that it could not wait. So there we were, surrounded by field after field of velvety red poppies that Joe was about to visit in a very personal way. Fortunately, traffic was very light and nobody saw him alight into the field and beyond the crest of a small hill where he could not be seen by passing traffic. Yes, truth is stranger than fiction. On that day, in the warmth of the spring sunshine of West Central Italy, Joe Pellek marked the occasion in a field of bright red poppies, gently blowing in the wind.