Tony Jolley

Rookie (17th June 1958 / England)

Survivors - Poem by Tony Jolley

Just five or six still standing.
Five or six from fifty or sixty thousand.
The rest? –
Mown down mercilessly
By sharp and unforgiving steel:
Shorn, shredded and spat out
Or ground under relentless wheels.

The miracle: that these solitary sentinels
Survived at all
When the grim reaper came for them,
Scything whole divisions in one fell swoop,
Driving a broad swath,
Right through the ranks
From front to rear.

Now the frontline has moved on afar
And the noise of one-sided battle
Has subsided to a dull rumble
From a roar.

No army medical corps
To patch up and mend;
No nurses to minister
‘Til the shipping up the line
And home to a hero’s welcome…

Just a wasteland.

A wasteland with arterial maize-blood
Forming congealed rivers in furrows
Striping the field with parallel yellow: -

After the harvest,
Come winter,
And the harrow.

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Poem Submitted: Friday, September 28, 2007

Poem Edited: Monday, April 11, 2011

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