Paul A. Freeman
Brigades of pals march out like ardent grooms
to nuptial beds dug deeply in a trench;
a duckboard mattress sprung with mud, and booms
of serenading guns can’t dull the stench
of rot and human wastage, while the sludge
conceals assassinating germs that steal
the glimmer of those youths who deathward trudge.
Where thy rose-cheeked bride? Where the bell-tower peal?
Now rifle-wed; now uniformed in serge;
the sky’s marquee rains down upon them shells.
Shrapnel, in confetti bursts, sounds its dirge,
augmented by the gas-alerting bells.
Those men who make it home and take a bride,
what horrors in their wives could they confide?
(This poem is in particular a tribute to the memory of Wilfred Owen, war poet, who died bravely just before the War to End All Wars came to an end.)