By Simon Armitage
Remains is a poem, written in first person, about a soldier is haunted by the memory
of a violentpast. He writes aboutthe experienceof shooting a looterwho was “raiding
a bank”. Later the soldier thinks about the shooting every time he walks down the
street. Then again, when he returns home he is still haunted by the thought of what
he has done. He tries drink and drugs to drown out the memory, butthey donot work.
The line ‘he’s here in my head when I close my eyes’ indicates this.
The theme of guilt stands out the most in the poem as he repeats the line “probably
armed possibly not” throughout the poem. This shows us that the solider didn’t
manage to see whether they were a danger or not, he was just trained to shoot him,
“…are all of the same mind, so all three of us open fire” shows us this. Later on in the
poem, the soldier is remembering his dreams he’s having, Armitage writes “… and he
bursts again through the doors of the bank. Sleep, and he’s probably armed, possibly
not”. The use of “again” at the start of the stanza shows us that the solider has had
recurring dreams about his actions. The poem also shows sympathy for the looter, in
the same stanza, the line “dream, and he’s torn apart by a dozen rounds” shows us
that the soldier didn’t feel that the man should have died in such a violent way, when
the soldiersdidn’t even check to see if he was armed. The theme of guiltand sympathy
tie well together in this poem because the solider is guilty for what he has done and
also has sympathy for the way they treated the criminal.
Armitage also almost slates the army in the poem by interpreting the soldiers as
nameless and identically trained with the use of “somebody else and somebody else”
when referring the men who are doing the shooting with him. The lack of names
suggests that it doesn’t really matter that much in the army, just as long as you can
kill in the same way as others and that they could have been any men. The line “are
all of the samemind” shows that they are alltaught to treat the looter in the same way,
to just automatically open fire at him. Armitage also repeated refers to the lack of
respect the soldiers show the criminal with phrases like, “tosses his guts back into his
body. Then he’s carted off in the back of a lorry”. The use of the verb “tosses” shows
us that the soldier has no emotion when it comes to criminals, this could be what
Armitage is saying what the army does to you, train you so you have no care for
people that have committed an illegal act and teat their life as worthless. Maybe that
is what the army thinks makes you a reliable soldier.