UKArchive ID: 30872cooky
Originally published on July 19, 2013 in Poetry
4 August 1914, and 30 September 1919, included 573,507 "killed in action, died from wounds and died of other causes" and 254,176 missing (minus 154,308 released prisoners), for a net total of 673,375 dead and missing. Casualty figures also indicated that there were 1,643,469 wounded.
The rose cannot compete
with the sweet smell of death,
only her image can forgive.
Laid upon the silence
of another boys coffin,
which hides this journey in life.
Your shame will not bring him back.
So win your war on kitchen table
for old men know best,
glory is for you who drink to them.
Your lads are entrusted
to fight an old man’s dream,
that age has altered with lies.
Inspire them with your bravado,
“the machine gun you can take”.
But bullets give no warning,
shells care not for heroes
and pain will not spare them.
I who should have died long ago
will take your lads over the top.
To meet this vision of glory
and perhaps some of them
will share with me the victory
of living for one more day.
For victory is the crows feast,
defeat will always find another battle.
Life is to obey another order,
and time is the torment of mind
Which counts the heart beats
to the next ordeal.
This war is in my veins
pouring blood over my soul,
death will be a blessing to me.
To forget what I have seen
to forget this madness in life.
I who greet the trains of hope.
Greet the innocent,
to take their place upon this cross,
and I will give them a lonely smile
for that is all that is left of me.
These faces of oblivion
who come with laughter,
soon cower before the sounds of war.
Their throats now choked
with the dry mouth of fear.
And I shall not dare too close
to this bloom of spring,
for my memory is full of ghosts.
We shall share a cigarette
politely sanitize our existence
with stories from home.
Quietly taking some comfort
from the guns now gorging on German blood.
For I wish not to see them alive
and “ laddie” always remembers,
do not let them see your fear.
The cold dew of dawn is growing anxious
It beading anoints my head
for it is the only thing that is pure
in my life.
The first rays of light eat into my eyes
revealing the man.
A gaunt child locked out of God’s grace,
for fear belongs to us all.
The mark of death dances one more time
In the steam of morning breathe
hoping for that final kiss,
and I shiver before its presence.
Though these boys that I take
can never know.
That just beyond their gaze
lies the guns that have taken
the voices before them.
The sound of the whistle
Calls once again
tomorrow the faces will change
and their passing will be
a journey into my memory.
A generation cut down in sacrifice,
a rose for every victim.
But the cold white marble
cannot hide the stories
for every family has one.
Church bells ring your victory
of widows who lost their men
and of this flower of summer,
cut down from mother’s lap.
Leave the silent streets to the swallows
to carry their voices back
to a time of peace.
For time has left us a faded photograph
Of Granddads journey done
Who went to sleep long ago.
Time in her mercy took his memory,
to join the untold stories
Of the boys we never knew.
All lost in Flanders field
but still guarded jealously
by the swallows who fly free
over the peace that you
gave to me.
Archived comments for The Unknown Sergeant WW1
Texasgreg on 19-07-2013
The Unknown Sergeant WW1
Brings to mind a thought: I see many vehicles with bumper stickers that proclaim pride of loved ones in the military. While I can imagine sense of duty to stand by one in the face of harm, I wonder if they really know what they're saying...
Mikeverdi on 19-07-2013
The Unknown Sergeant WW1
Some wonderfully descriptive passages here - I particularly like 'the sound of the whistle calls once again' I cant ever imagine what terror that sound must have brought to those that heard it. I think it could be trimmed to help with the flow ... cut out a few of the and's; but that's just me maybe. Whatever... it a great piece of writing. Mike