Perhaps in the end
they didn’t mind dying so much;
but wouldn’t you, just twenty-two?
You, worn out, sleeping only fitfully,
a trench bed of muddy clay and water,
soaked to the skin, propped up on sandbags –
pyjamas, man? You’ve worn the same clothes
for weeks, filthy, smelling, depressed
by dysentery, a fortnight’s rain on and off
and on…thinking before dawn of home…
longing in this surrealistic world
of dirt and damp and hunger, the horror
of good mates hanging over barbed wire,
a head joined only to a helmet…
to see them all once more, and say
the things you wished you’d said before.
You say them now, or scribble them down,
think their world might yet be saved
if enough, tough men like you are trying
hard to be, lie awake at night
and think of them, and fight and kill
others trapped like you – to keep them free.
You wanted once so much to live!
But now you say – For them – what’s meant to be…
for them and for theirs – things undone – forgive?
I fought for things enduring. Oh, remember me!