Sunday, 12 November 2017

Lead poisoning

Lead poisoning

C'est la via, c'est la mort,
c'est la fin de la guerre, 
c'est le poème du sacre mercenaire.

I was to compose a 'death or glory' poem,
after Tennyson, when the first few lines
were shot clean through with leaden slugs.

Slingshot, engraved with wingéd bolts,
Take that! (in Greek) inscribed on obverse,
peppered the raw first draft on the page.

I'd written of 'Harry' and 'unleashed dogs',
tried Havoc! but clichés clashed and those,
a writer's volleyed words, fell short once more.

Spherical lead in cold-swagered rounds,
which the French, in their way, call boulettes,
tore a bloody great hole in the verse,

and Minié balls, a gift of France,
were fired in discharged fusillades,
in salvoes to the stanzas' flanks.

Rat-a-tat, rat-a-tat, rat-a-tat, chanted guns
as columns were strafed while standing fast
and rank upon rank, the syllables fell.

Outflanked at the last, I attempted retreat,
but enfilades of covering fire
failed to prevent ignominious defeat

and an orchestrated din of lethality,
made wretched by countless fatalities,
brought surrender-- the last vulgarity.

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