Poetry

Barney McKaig’s Sixteenth Birthday

By 5th April 2009December 9th, 2019No Comments

The dreary farm is lost in clouds of dust
And makeshift uniform, chafing thighs
With cheeks aflame, you’ve posed for tintype
And heard impassioned speeches, rousing words

You traded weary work-a-day for this:
For cheek-by-jowl with shopkeeper
And German tailor’s son, for beans and corn
And reveille at dawn, pine-scented air

Your only fear is that you might miss out —
Might end up on a fly-blown prairie farm
And never taste the glory or the joy
Or feel within your veins the quickened pulse

Now you’re a drop in history’s rush-and-roar
Nine hundred strong, to march, to shout as one
Battalion drill and chafing haversack
So many feet to crush the tender grass

Then stretches of grey days and stifled yawns
And longing for the trumpet’s strident blast
Chill rain and mud and endless bickering
And all too soon the thrill, the rush, of war

Did you taste glory then? Or was it more
The bitter-biled adrenalin of fear?
Face ground in dust, blue eyes dull as slate
Sixteen today for all eternity

Mary Whitsell

Author Mary Whitsell

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