Wednesday, November 11, 2015


Young men love to fight
They love to think of fighting
Of creating enemies to slay
Of glorious battles
And thrilling deaths defending
An honour they have invented to die for.

Let's fight for the King
Who is one of us
Let's fight for Honor
that unknown principle
Let's fight for Dying Well
Which is an end in itself

And so they love to fight until
Their DNA asks for larger territories to seed
Until the old men join in
With lethal ordnance
And higher stakes
And invocations of eternity

At first they all join in
The men, old and young
In battles they call Great and Glorious
Waging war against figments they call ideas
And it seems to go well
And the statisticians keep track

With counts of dead
Like sporting cards and bookie sheets
Each battle ranked with named battalions
The details duly noted for the monuments
Which in a better time would have been
Engraved lists of teams on sporting trophies
Or personnel in jazz ensembles
That can be committed to memory
According to years and tracks produced

So that later generations of boys
If there are any
Can mimic the battles
And perpetuate the glory of dying in uniform
Where they do not die alone, although they do
To keep the fight alive

But the old men, fearing their deaths
At the hands of infirmity
Have upped the ante so that the pot
Will take everyone to that lost infinity
They make Ideals
For their neighbour's sons to follow
Even one god sent his son to fight
And not himself

What was once a game and a dramatic action
With industry and remote direction in the arena
Becomes shards of flesh and bone
Stinking disembowelments, a friend's jawless decapitation
A comrade's frothing lungs,
Your own bleeding circumcision
a mass of worms at your loins

These wounds unimagined by boys
Who fight in the dry battlegrounds of imagination
Where no full metal jacket
Does its rupturing damage
Through the cheek and the teeth
Where no blood stinks with iron
And shit does not smear the gaping wound

So that they die like saints
In memory, Clean and smelling of lilies perhaps
Or some other innocent flower
With the odor of sanctity upon them
Or let them think so
Until the elders grow tired of peace
And drum again.

--R A Fairbrother
   January 3, 2014.