Chasing Crows

When I was six I sat alone
And wept amidst the Spring-grown wheat,
From dawn to dusk I wouldn’t meet
Another soul.
The farmer left me there at dawn to scare the birds
And beat me hard – near senseless –
If he ever found me sleeping.

I wept day after day, sometimes all day,
With utter loneliness
He fed me kale, potatoes, lard
Three times a week with kale, potatoes, lard,
But mostly lard.
My parents died, I think, or maybe I was sold
To him as times were hard.

Now I am seventeen – well ,
“Nineteen” on my records,
Living in a trench near Wypers
Thanks to General Kitchener.
I wear a woollen battle dress,
So warm, with boots, a greatcoat, hat.
I eat Machonachie’s – with meat, real meat!
Then follow this with bread and jam,
Delicious plum and apple,
Which is all washed down
With hot sweet tea
That flows in constant steaming stream.
I share this with my pals.

The sergeant barks but never bites
Or kicks or rains down blows, or worse…..
Not like the farmer in a brutal rage.
The army even pays a proper wage
So for the first time in my life
I have real money, solid, tangible
And heavy in its leather purse,
The magic coins which, if I want
Some chocolate or tobacco,
I can exchange
And then – incredibly – it’s mine
To keep, or eat, or share amongst
My pals.

And so I sit at night and talk with them –
My pals! To talk!– Such far-imagined joy
That filled my waking dreams while
In the wheat field all alone
I screamed quite incoherent
And then wept
From crushing loneliness, or shame
If he had used me once again.
I wished me dead so many times
That bullets, bombs or whiz-bangs
Are disinterested torments, Hands of Fate,
With no malignancy, nor loneliness, nor hate.
Though I may die here in the Flanders mud
My soul is mended, healed, content
And filled with such a joy
That if I die, I do so
Happy that I die with friends.
In truth,
I love this war,
And in my heart of hearts
I hope the fighting
Never ends.

© Richard Lindsay 2015