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