Two war poems (edited!)
In those final quickening hours
we sat, and weighed the snare-drum rhythm
of our failing hearts, sucking warmth from
close-pinched cigarettes and old memories.
Our sergeant paced, checked his watch for lies,
and ignored the muffled sobs disguised as coughs
- his whistle hanging heavy as a prayer.
Seconds fell like dominoes, and in the dark,
kisses fell on photographs and scented words
of love and hope. A trembling hand, a whistle
burning arid lips. A banshee scream all down
the line. In that void, where time meets fate,
we were no longer men. Just shadows,
dancing on the rim of hell.
The Lost Boys
at seventeen he’d never known the opiate thrill of love,
or the brand of burning lips against his skin,
or wept with tears of joy and lost all cares and all reserve,
in heady, headlong nights of glorious sin.
he’d never sipped the finest malts or staggered blindly home,
or danced, drunk with champagne, beneath the sky
or been loved so much he felt as god, invincible and proud
no woman’s tears had ever made him cry.
every day he’d watched men die and heard the razor screams,
seen bodies, rotting in this sea of mud,
and quaked beneath the thunder of a thousand heavy guns,
all spattered with his fallen comrades’ blood.
he’d slipped beneath the wire into a swarm of hissing lead,
followed orders that his hero sergeant gave,
and stumbled back through nightmares and the bodies of his friends
in this world between the devil and the grave.
and when these months of horror had reduced him to a shell;
a broken boy who’s mind was burnt and torn,
with no more will to fight than the will he had to live
they took him to a quiet field at dawn.
a telegram was handed to his mother back at home
shaming him for cowardice, and yet,
which one of us could contemplate the horrors he endured?
lest we forget,
lest we forget.