In Memory of Jerry

Before me lies the man I have killed. What did I kill him for?

He lies there dead and gory. What fate had cast him here? Who is he?

Perhaps he, too, like me, has an old mother.

How long will she sit on the doorstep of her squalid little stick shack in the evenings,
looking southward to see whether her beloved son, her breadwinner and worker,

is coming home?

Had I given up all that I loved, all that was dear to me,

had I made this thousands of mile march out here,
suffering from hunger, cold and the blazing heat,

did I lie now here in such agony, merely for the sake of taking that poor man’s life?

What useful objective had I achieved apart from this murder?

His face had gone. It had slid off the bones.

The ghastly skull, fixed in the eternal grin of death,
was more repulsive to me than ever before,

although I had often had occasion to handle skulls and bones.

This skeleton in uniform with shining buttons made me shudder.

That is war, I thought, there is its image.

The frailty of everything revealed at last.

Old and troubling issues resolved into nothingness and night.

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SUICIDE IN THE TRENCHES

By Siegfried Sassoon

I knew a simple soldier boy
Who grinned at life in empty joy,
Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
And whistled early with the lark.

In winter trenches, cowed and glum,
With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
He put a bullet through his brain.
No one spoke of him again.

You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you’ll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.