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Remembrance Day (2)

by  Zettel

Posted: Saturday, November 18, 2006
Word Count: 370




Remembrance Day

Etched in unforgiving stone
The Glorious Dead
implacable stands alone
washed in rain and bitter tears
blood red poppies do not atone
across the bitter years
the sadness and the loss
as each November nears
we mourn our honoured dead
with military pomp and facile prayers
power privilege and marching bands
through blood-strewn leaves are led

His rheum-filled distant eyes
struggle with the tears
dutiful remembrance
of guilty stolen years
In the dank November air
his question hangs unsaid
why you? why you, not me?
troubling the time-lined face
Beneath his shine-shod feet
the present fallen leaves
conjure tragic fallen friends
of another time and place

This once-reluctant hero
learnt the lies of manly war
the glory of the rat-filled trench
the honour of the bloodstained mud
and the patriotic stench
yet now as then his feet keep time
failing heart and troubled mind still stirred
by the self-less uniformity
of a military band
He killed, they died for our country
sacrificed their trusting youth
for a scrap of another land

This Universal Soldier
deep down feels some blame
for his blind abused obedience
to fear of cowardice and shame
trapped by war the lethal custom
forced to play the lethal game
heís always followed orders
his fallen friends the same
they gave their lives and lost their voice
as they marched to death in dutyís name
but the old manís eyes remember
they simply had no choice.

Expressionless he sees
ambitious men of power pretend
they know what war is really like
and are the soldierís friend
but till they stand where he once stood
he knows the slaughter will not end
He thinks of inadvertent death
by euphemistic friendly fire.
uncounted unknown innocence
mere collateral to men
who will place all but their ambition
upon an obscene funeral pyre

The old but upright man now stands
impassively alone
his pride-held tears now flow
he takes his medals from his chest
places them upon the wreath below
three faltering steps back
salutes then turns to go
Soon he will rejoin his long-lost friends
from all those years ago
the medals left unburden him
from a sense of undeserving life
and a debt no one else can know