Honorific Seargeant of the First World War

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

You see me walking past in the grimy London street; guiltily you invite me into a pub for a drink. I eye you, adjust my face, and reply.

You sent me off to war,
A boy dressed up to play a toy soldier
On a glitt'ring front,
The Front Lines, you said they were.
I went.
There was no glitter.

I went to war on foreign shores
For foreign men I did not call my countrymen before
But do now, sir.
I do because they fought, and were blown up, and were tortured and spent,
As my fellow Brits were.

We understand war, sir.

Later
I was laid up in l'hôpital
For six months or more,
And in that time I came to know the
Horror
Of the Front Line,
The noseless, earless, eyeless, faceless, limbless, lifeless
Horror
That grows there.
As I rotted in my sick-toy bed,
That Horror brought me men
That had
Ceased to look like
Men.

Most of them looked corpsish, sir.

Many I thought were dead.

The ones that still had ?ngers
Would play cards when they could;
Those that still had tongues and throats
Would warble and crack jokes;
The rest of us would lie and ache
And thank God for our hospital mates.

We made dim gray out of black hell, sir,
And that's no easy feat,
Especially when your country
Sends you off to foreign straits
And smashes you to bits on foreign reefs.

And I should mention that
It wasn't until later, when
Mother England called us home,
That I learned I had become a corpse with the other toy soldiers.

God, the others--
--we--
--were all so young!

So excuse me, good sir, if I
Don't take your drink in hospitality,
For I can see the pity
And the horror
Shimmering in your eyes,
And all I can say is why
Do you gape
At my ruined face
When you and your fellow old gents
Made it that way?


Submitted: January 29, 2013

© Copyright 2022 Iskah E Shirah. All rights reserved.

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Comments

E. J. Rylee

Oh, glorious master of the free verse! I think that this is my favourite poem of yours, by far.

Not only does it have vivid imagery, but the twisted humour and the personality of the soldier is very clearly evident and intriguing. It is very distinguishable as a voice of its own, not one of many.

Love this, is it what you're sharing tomorrow?

Thu, March 14th, 2013 4:04am

Author
Reply

Yay! :D Unfortunately it is not, I entered a script. But perhaps I'll enter it next year :) Or maybe...oh, I'll email the idea to you.

Wed, March 13th, 2013 9:06pm

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