With all the pomp going on re 100 years anniversary of WW1 I felt this piece appropriate in light of the realities of war as suffered by innocent civilians, remembering too that soldiers are pawns of higher authorities.
No Glory in War
A rat is eating my brother’s left eye. It is not thin
or scrawny and clings to life, unlike my brother.
He is bent over at wrong angles and his pallid skin
denies hope. The air is rancid around us. Other
smells include vomit, shit and piss. The gas
mask is some relief although I threw up in it
yesterday. That was his last day. He fell as
we laughed about a cow at home. I lit
a match and held it to his cigarette.
He inhaled the tobacco and drew no further breath
as it was taken by the push of a bayonet
through his stomach and on to death.
Today, I am crammed into water and mud,
ankle deep. I don’t feel my feet. The feet
that walked excitedly with his. If I could
retrace them now I’d choose a different street.
Not the one with the posters and Royal approval
of fighting for freedom in this great war
of cousins. The cause of our uniformed removal
from home, loved ones and all that we are.
Now we are no more than a reason for rifle
salutes and bugles. No more than a lesson to learn
in futility. My eyes are scorched so that we stifle
an empire and build another as thousands burn.
My fellows lie about me, shell shocked, half dead,
half mad. They babble of Coventry and Leeds.
Some call for their mothers. They squeal as the lead
crosses flesh borders and are far from daring deeds.
I shall not inter my brother. He is fodder for vermin
and flies. His stench betrays the life our mother gave.
To die like this after her efforts. Religion has no sermon
to redeem the likes of me. I have found my grave.