Gert Strydom

Freshman - 1,209 Points (03 April 1964 / Johannesburg, South Africa)

On Games Of Death And War (Sonnet Corona)


I

Like the destruction in the white and black
of a chess board during nights and days
destiny makes its moves and plays
with the lives of men and women with a uncanny knack

and like mere pawns it demands where anyone goes
whether to move, to mate or to die as an act of fate,
it rolls its dice and makes its moves in love and hate
and without choice in the throes

of life and death we jump to it
going to and fro,
we are like marionettes happy to rise,
without thought, pity or any wit
just where we are demanded to go
when our country asks us to pay a prize.


II

When our country asks us to pay a prize,
to gain the enemy’s territory
some have to pay with their demise,
as a man you are not free.

They send young men into the gates of hell
with uniforms and boots to clean with polish and spit,
while at home like kings they dwell
and lucky are the ones that come back from it,

but to children the ruling men tell tales of fun
while returning soldiers have shellshock,
from the beating of canon and gun,
think and dream daily about utter havoc

and not one was treated like a gentleman;
Lord, today I met a young man.


III

Lord, today I met a young man
believing that he has more power than You
he even cursed You and out of the blue
said that he could end anyone’s lifespan

and this fellow wasn’t from my own class or clan
with stripes and swords pasted on his arm with glue,
he even hated the things that I hold dear and true
mocked my beliefs; Your salvation plan,

tried to strip away my dignity
while lashing out with curses and gibberish,
every action and word did sting
and without cause he punished me
while dark vowels were flowing at ease
while on far-flung roads I was wandering.


IV

While on far-flung roads I was wandering,
far from home
my footstep did roam
and destiny was plundering

my humanity, every decent thing
with war’s gruesome
impact and the trite welcome,
of wasted starving children without any blessing

who watched wide-eyed,
smelling like coming death,
where others had paid the cost,
walking past soldiers that had died
without a last bequeath,
what can I say about friendship lost?


V

What can I say about friendship lost?
That the lives of soldiers are insecure,
in weeks we have received no post
and it bares me no pleasure

to tell about a soldier, great and brave
who now is dead
who did crave
for peace and tranquillity but went to war instead?

That soldiers without stain
are the knaves of fools
and at their whim are slain
by politicians who like kings live and rule

to whom a soldier is just another toy;
at breakfast, the meal was filled with joy.


VI

At breakfast, the meal was filled with joy
your tender and warm caress,
the touch on your breast was sheer tenderness
and the war was far-gone, far off life a ploy

and you looked pretty dressed in green corduroy
as if with your eyes, your lips you could bless
could turn the outside world into nothingness
until the telegram came like reality’s envoy

and in the bush at the front
I was beyond your smile, you sweet grace,
like a mere primed machine
and I was beyond your loving face,
the commander’s voice had the usual affront;
what last notes at deaths did ring?


VII

What last notes at their deaths did ring,
when in war they met enemy armour,
but for the whistling
of bullets, rockets and shells that favour

some with shattering, exploding oblivion
and steel shredded like paper,
where they were caught, without salvation
and to the government they were just number after number

and not real living men, living human beings,
who were trapped in a Ratel armour-car like rats caged in
and it was only one more of those things,
when the destruction of the enemy did begin

and their game was played; those men will never be back,
like the destruction in the white and black.

Submitted: Friday, June 14, 2013
Edited: Friday, June 14, 2013

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