In subtle fields the casualties of leaves hang yellow.
Frost's ghosts graze the bullet grass,
Awakening crisp footfall. The boy imagines going home.
Dawn's blood, he thinks, robes trees with autumn,
But I am going home. For this is death's dawn
And crammed with poppy-clots, and memories
Of home's fields are overwhelming here, like
Scent of jasmine or new love.
His cold ghost rises, spits once in cold defiance
Of the enemy. The broken chemicals
It leaves behind still grasp, it seems, at shattered
Puddles - the iron, frozen glass of dark pools spilt
From comrade eyes. (Note how friends
Are 'comrades' under arms, even acquaintances).
And rising on the upsurge of some homeward joy
The ghost of the broken boy is mended,
Skims over safe lanes back to his mother's
Perfect, pleated skirts. These paddocks bear no clots;
No fists of blood or rifles hoarse with speech of bullets.
This voice is clear, this meadow home and hopeful.
The valley welcomes him with unreflected truth:
Here is the churchyard where he ran in laughter;
Here the first glance in the brightness of flirtation;
Here cuckoo silence, and stillness, and safety.
The body did not stir, stabbed again by bayonets of
Raven beaks. The orbits of the eyes had become colder
Than the riddled sods that bore the rest.
The hands still gripped the red air where his gun had been,
But blind with cold, they did not miss the ghost at all.
Strange clay, we, who love and murder.