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November 24, 1916

Paul Nash, "We Are Making a New World," 1918

409 words

Author’s Note:

A sestina written for all of our folk who were duped into being part of that first war to end all wars, that brother-killing-brother war, that beginning of our end.

I purposely did not date it November 11, so it would be more than merely a Veterans Day poem, although it is, also and most profoundly, a Veterans Day poem. 

We sit on duckboards or we stand in mud
Waiting, watching as the setting sun
Dips deep behind the ridge. Red clouds like blood
Thrown up against the blue-black sky make fun
Of all the blood thrown down, and thrown away,
All around us. We sit and wait for day

To end. We’ll be here when another day
Begins. As another morning finds mud—
(Mud and death)—and quite simply dawns away
Regardless. Up and down the yellow sun
Rises, sets, and decides some pretty fun
Can be had in skies the color of blood,

Unaware that down here, for us, it’s blood—
Über alles–that saturates each day
And stains our lives. Blood isn’t pretty fun.
To bleed or not to bleed here in the mud . . .
Watching the rising or the setting sun
Bleed into clouds, while we, too, bleed away

In little or in sudden bits. Away
We bleed… Away. Away in draughts of blood
And shattered bone. As all the while the sun
Throws bloody dawn or bloody ends of day
Into the skies that hang above the mud
That holds us. Surely there’s some sort of fun

To be had (terrible ironic fun
Of course… but still, it is there, in a way)
In looking upward from these slits of mud
And seeing winter skies awash in blood
When we’ve been awash in it, too, all day.
What clever things we – to share with the sun

The same bloodiness-es under the sun
That hang over the sun in clouds. What fun
We can find! Great fun every bloody day,
Watching the sun and comrades bleed away . . .
Sitting and watching while vistas of blood
Fall upon us, on duckboards or on mud.

Tonight, let the sun bleed itself away
To where fun is not a joke, soaked in blood,
Red clouds and mud. Let us have no next day.

Source: This sestina has appeared previously, without my note, in Mobius and in Soundzine (where one may hear it be professionally read).


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