My friend on the wire

So came the sleep
Brought by a shell
Or mortar bomb
Which tolled the knell
For his short life
…And then the smell…

They say the smell of death is sickly sweet.
….Sweet lies.
There’s nothing sweet or dulcet in those deliquescing eyes
That weep black tears of humor
Round his flaccid, gaping grin.
The smell of Death is rancid musk, with flies,
And rotten pomegranate flesh.
….He lies
Across the strands of wire
I laid last month.

He waved to me
On my return from leave.
His disconnected arm
Swung from the sleeve
In any kind of breeze,
While in the sun his body sighed
With pleasure at the heat
Then burst with joy
Releasing creamy maggots,
Fat, replete,
Which dripped like frothing milk
Fresh from the teat.
But Christ! The smell….

The Captain caught it full the other day,
And retched,
So last night led us on patrol.
The darkness etched
From time to time
With star shell, tracer, flare,
Or torn by screeching roll
Of orange-blossomed shell.
We cut him down
To bury him in smothering earth
But then
A trinity of mortars fell –
Amongst us…

…So now in close embrace
We tangled lie,
My grinning, waving, German friend and I.
Tomorrow’s dawn will find us
Limbless, sightless, careless,
Smiling up
Into an azure, summer sky.

© Richard Lindsay 2015