Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, SONG AND CRY OF A SOLDIER IN THE LINES, by ALBERT EDWARD CLEMENTS



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SONG AND CRY OF A SOLDIER IN THE LINES, by            
First Line: Sharpen the sky to flashes of flame
Last Line: When a cross and dust mark where you fell?
Subject(s): Death; Government; Social Protest; Soldiers; War; World War I; Dead, The; First World War


ALBERT EDWARD CLEMENTS

Sharpen the sky to flashes of flame
Belching through bunches of dusty smoke.
War is coming, and war is a game
Where a king is a god, and a soldier's a joke
To be played on fields of warm red blood
Seething and spitting in heaving mud.

My son is going, your son is going!
March, boys, march, you're on your way to hell!
John and Henry, what will you be knowing
When a cross and dust mark where you fell?

Fight, you slimy lipped idiots, for one buck a day!
Bleed, kill, suffer, starve—and kiss the full breasted women stumbling
before conquest.
Spit at the little red faced kids crying on their mothers' revealing skirts,
guffaw at their wailing for fathers.
Heaven and Christ, what do they know about graves!

Shouts, curses, tears, cheers; lightning shots streaking the crazy clouds;
ripping flesh, groaning men; splintered homes; muddy, shell-torn gardens;
Sagging skies spilling oozy, sticky rains as if blood were not greasy and wet
enough.

How many years have I been away?
How many men have I killed today?
We went over the top at eleven sharp,
Through the shrapnel and dead, and the devil's harp
Played a tune that was mad with blood and smoke,
Played a tune that laughed when some brain broke!
I've never been mad, but I'm going quick.
The blood on my bayonet makes me sick,
And the crunch of cold flesh as I stumble along
Is a sound that hell would condemn as wrong.

Powdered monarchs at home, feasting, dancing, laughing; velvet stomachs lined,
fortified, tickled with rich food.
Brains lined with solid wood. (What more could you expect?)
Thousands, millions, ten thousand millions of white crosses stuck crooked,
ghostlike, over worm eaten boxes; a sea of salty tears, an ocean of widows
weeping.
A world of sucking, wailing fatherless children; two worlds of fields blooming
from muddy broken ground into scented flowers,
Into lush crops.
Anything that came out of the earth is good fertilizer;
Man came out of the earth.

How many men were killed today?
Ten thousand will never again draw their pay!
Ten thousand will never again see the sun.
They were good soldiers and their work is done.

Perhaps a red rose can tell the name of some dead soldier whose blood it bears.
For quiet has come once again.
After war the silence of a void, the song of a wind gone down.

My son is going, your son is going!
March, boys, march, you're on your way to hell!
John and Henry, what will you be knowing
When a cross and dust mark where you fell?





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