When Reveille Sounds

A sestina for Armistice Day.

Red for poppies which in fields bloom
Midst the death and blood of bodies strewn;
Brown for the dirt, the trenches which flood
And fill with muck and mud and blood;
Black descends on me in death
Light fades, night falls with fleeting breath.

The earth exhales a gasping breath
As red from wounds like flowers bloom
In Flanders where life bleeds to death;
Men as seeds broadcast and strewn
Who dying cry for Mum and blood—
A swelling call as tide to flood.

The autumn rain fills fields to flood
The trenches with muck, choke the breath,
Of living land now browned with blood—
Once waved with wheat, flowered in bloom,
Now torn and ripped with metal strewn—
A splintered world of rusting death.

Assigned, resigned to our own death
O’er the top pour, a fodder in flood
‘Cross no man's land with craters strewn,
Shells scream, feet pound with desperate breath,
A hope forlorn in national bloom
Necessity’s gift: life and blood.

This band of brothers bound in blood,
Blacked by powder, smeared with death,
Shelter 'neath shells which burst and bloom,
The crack and fire, the roaring flood,
Explosion's smell, sulfuric breath,
Hope littered, wasted, cast off, strewn.

In whitened rows no longer strewn
Red sprinkles the field as blood
Which waves and swells blown by breath;
In Ypres’, now green, valley of death
No brown-clad men gather in flood
To Flanders’ fields where tombstones bloom.

One day the fields shall wind Life’s Breath,
Men as poppies rise tall in bloom,
When Rev’lle sounds the death of death.

Randall Edwards 2022
photo: Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
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About randamir

I pastor Grace Presbyterian Church in Kernersville, North Carolina which locals fondly refer to as K-vegas -- the town not the church. As D.T. Niles once said, "I am not important except to God."

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