Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, DRUM TAPS TO HEAVEN, by JAMES CHURCH ALVORD

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DRUM TAPS TO HEAVEN, by            
First Line: Peter at heaven's gate wearied of the game
Last Line: Rat-a-tat -- rat-a-tat -- tir-r-r-rah -- tah-tah!
Subject(s): Heaven; World War I; Paradise; First World War

Peter at Heaven's Gate wearied of the game
('Twas old folks, old folks, shivering up the stair),
Spindle-shanks, wheezings, sparse and grizzled hair
When whooping, thundering, boys by millions came;
Blue eyes, black eyes, quivering eyes of flame
Short step, sharp step, swinging to a flare;
Torn breasts, rank hulks, through the shrapnel's glare.
Some were but shards and smears of the human frame
Each lad looked down -- he'd heard a mother cry.
Each lad turned back -- he'd heard a maiden sigh.
Peter did know -- tows to the number seven.
(For these mad feet had danced the rigadoons of earth.
These shouting mouths had kissed beneath pale moons of earth),
"Brave boys," he laughed, "we'll have some life in Heaven!"
Rat-a-tat -- rat-a-tat -- tir-r-r-rah!
Rat-a-tat -- rat-a-tat -- tir-r-r-rah!
Rat-a-tat -- rat-a-tat -- tir-r-r-rah -- tir-r-r-rah -- tah-tah!

Flat yellow faces watched the sunset skies
(Sharp elbows nudged and eyes grew boldly rude);
While the grim twilight blotched with crimson, crude
Blood-drip of white boys storming Paradise.
Old yellow peoples saw their day rise:
Straight legs, quick brains, hashed to cannon-food
Lame lungs, weak wits, left to breed the brood.
Grunted the Orient, mocking, bland, and wise:
"Clang go the gold gates on husky daddies gone,
Rickets and drivel in your homes are born.
Bribe us to churches, bully us to schools,
Your weakling shall not cheat us in the marts of earth,
Your weaklings shall not strap us to the carts of earth,
O, blond-haired, blue-eyed, Nordic Race of Fools!"
Rat-a-tat -- rat-a-tat -- tir-r-r-rah!
Rat-a-tat -- rat-a-tat -- tir-r-r-rah!
Rat-a-tat -- rat-a-tat -- tir-r-r-rah -- tah-tah!

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