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What Difference Doth A Century Make?

Updated on November 10, 2014

1914...

What Difference Doth A Century Make?

Part One:


1914…

“Dulce et Decorum est, pro Patria Mori?”


I am ill prepared for unyielding horror, but is this just me?

Heart is lodged in dread, coated in the Western Front’s slag,

A day is a decade in this rancid bowel, home and trench,

Ticking down eras, from a time when normality and I were acquainted.


Glory was a spectral illusion to lure us here in droves,

King and country sit in peace, a Commonwealth away,

Riches exceeding numerous filth coating uniform’s muted green,

Wooly shade of nausea, banner of me and my German reflection’s misdeeds.


Above the trench dwells man’s best parallel of Hell,

Melee of mud, barbed wire, wood corpses, meat I called mates,

Stench of mustard gas waltzes infernally over dying sorrow,

Grey sky, chill air litter the vista with my dulled aching fear.


Aligned on the verge is my company, akin and estranged comrades,

Death shares a canteen with us and dines on the unsaid between banter,

Lingering in those eager, weighs on those uncertain, drenches in rain as we go over,

Propelling duty, sinking teeth of boots into mud, adrenaline scarring reason.


Out of purgatory’s trench these young tin soldiers elevate into perdition,

Hammering heart submerges external din, shielding raw horror from slaughter,

Mist and smoke invade and pervade, concealing barbed wire serpents,

Contriving to trap a free man, bind him in patriotic sacrifice,

Death is Almighty, smothering in declarations of erupting earth and dying screams.


Fear dulls senses, the concoction of an elixir of servitude in today’s needles,

Potion of government issue martial action, military lambs to the slaughter,

Howling munitions & contrition flood me, as dirt flowers & domino soldiers fall,

Rifle my sole companion, memory of trench, unwelcome reminder of my distance.


Thudding pulse drives me forward, ringing smoke, dust and chaos drowns me,

Eyes stream, soul unconsciously weeps through horror, smoke and my reeking fear,

Agony & terror form discordant of human woe, deafened in this diabolical meadow,

Upon mustard gas, violent chorus turmoil has it’s throe, gunfire’s banquet.


Froze amid anarchy’s tapestry I study warfare’s venomous grace,

Recalling an age ago, a quiet village, gentle sun, whiling freedom away,

Memories of love, spectres of me, thread the gossamer veils of desecration,

In my bubble, the battlefield of Flanders loses focus as I fight to remember peace,


Whip crack bite sinks into my rigid flesh, pain rears like the German ghosts afar,

Knees tremor, burning acid is my blood, veins like the trenches scouring the fields,

Sinking into the mud, blood escapes with liberty, fog of war lifts,

Face down, the mud greets the soldier, kindred spirits in oppressed nations.


The letters I wrote home spring to mind as the ink of life ebbs from me,

Messages of a planned and hoped for future now written as a legacy in blood,

Cold seeps from mud and sky into veins as warfare gains another legionnaire,

Earth is ashes, this 14-year-old glory hunter’s lust is dust, repatriated by death.


“Dulce et Decorum est, pro Patria Mori?”


© Brad James, 2014.

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