A War-Poem Penned on the Eve of the Rediscovery of Myself
In Time’s forgotten landscape lies
the last of those unbroken lines
that lead from God knows where to here
and on, and carry on…
Inconsequentially the lines were drawn
except to show the limits left behind, as boots
and stooping troopers and th’other pawns
made nonsense of our heritage and roots.
Through battle-fields run rivers red
whose banks are strewn with children of the sun,
and one by one they come to fall
where only soldiers end up with their names in stone.
What colour is the uniform of my infant-ry
laid slain by foreign legions in the sodden trenches,
by he who has not ever lain
on the broken hills of my country?
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures,
his rod and staff anoint me,
and drop by drop the beatings stop
in the heart of the rape of clover.
As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
looking for someone’s last breath
to resurrect from the ashes,
one child cries out through its blood-filled mouth,
‘Here I am in the mountains of carnage!’
Concrete histories sealed in stone
lay dormant in the hills
that mark the ordered henge of tombs
under a cold, grey sky that showed no mercy.
For queen and country our princes fell
before your stinking throne of indifference,
like he who has not ever lied
on the blessèd heads of our wee bairn.
How many times must the child say no
on the blood-meadows of denial
before the cavalry rushes in
and withdraws from their scabbard
kisses of understanding?
The cowherd in his cowardice,
the shepherd in his shame,
retreated from the battle-field:
for this they are to blame.
How many lives were lost that day,
how many bones were broken!
Your pitiful excuses will
forever go unspoken.
And token tears will never heal
the souls that won’t be woken.
I have thought of the hills that moved
in the momentary convulsions of life
draining down the slopes
into the greener glens of slaughter.
In brooks of blood and wending streams of anguish
no holy waters flow to wash the wounds afresh.
Daughter of the dark times,
what colour is the shadow of a silhouette
cast upon the sun?
Child of the dark vale,
no more you hear the starlings on the moor
with their breakfast-hymn of the republic,
as the soldier’s song smothers the lullaby
and the dirge overpowers the cantor’s cry.
You speak in soft tones now
from the failing voice of the whimpering wound
and the cold wind to carry the chords homewards.
And in the silent hum of the aftermath
as the mourning walk among the dead
one child arises from the drenches of disinterest
to stand atop that industry of the callous world.
All hail the child on the hill
who turns their back to the horror scene
and sees the world beyond the knoll
where no more shots are fired.
And hail the child who marches forth
with the courage of lions through the lying world,
who wraps their dreams in schemes of hope
when all truth but one has expired.