Saturday, February 11, 2012


There was a war, and as with all wars,
Glory fell dead in her boots the first week.
The Orthodox priests were there as we boarded the trains.
They blessed us,
Made the sign of the cross and assured us
That the God who made us, down to the smallest sinew and bone,
Wished for us to be shoveled
Like coal
Into the fire of insanity
Which breeds behind the shining eyes of rulers.

What did we care about the French, licking pastry crumbs from their fingers,
Or the English?
At Masurian Lakes and Tannenburg, we were guided to our doom by imbeciles,
And for what?
Let Willie have Poland;
We cared nothing for it.
We cared for bread, and shoes, and getting the lice out of our hair.

The Little Father came to rally us--
He did not carry the stars inside his coat.
No sign of Divine favor radiated from him.
He was a runt;
I wanted to stand him on a crate and then face the crate toward an executionary detail.
He would fall, you know,
Just as we did.

The next day,
My horse was hit in the flank, and the wound became infected.
I had to shoot him myself.
That was different, a greater obscenity,
Than killing strangers for no reason;
I realized that our beasts,
Dumb brutes that they were,
Were holy
Compared to the imps who compelled us to be part of this.

There was a war, and like all wars,
It was a devil bathing in blood,
Washing filthy vileness into us
And setting screaming nightmares loose inside our riven skulls.
So don't ask me to tell you about it--
I left my tongue there,
Torn out and mute,
Fodder for empire,
Profaned and lying speechless in the mud.

for Real Toads weekend challenge. Photograph by Talon.


Brian Miller said...

how many lie speechless, or just bitch for no other reason to remind themselves they are breathing with no intention of ever actually standing up instead of being shoveled like same said coal into the fire that our rulers need to keep themselves warm and keep the votes coming...oh dont get me started...all this from a lovely horse as well...seriously you just messing with me? smiles.

lovely prompt today shay...and nice tap on talons shoulder too...she is good peeps

Mama Zen said...

Outstanding, Shay. The first two lines grab you by the throat, and the intensity never lets up. I really like this.

Anonymous said...

holy molie, Shay! you've left me speechless....

Kay L. Davies said...

This is so powerful, Shay, I have written three comments so far and deleted each one as too feeble. Consider me humbled.

Lolamouse said...

How many are STILL leaving their tongues and much more there? The madness continues. You put it right in front of our faces, Shay, and brilliantly.

Sioux said...

Shay--the Spirit that wrote this one up channeled a soldier from long ago, and captured his anguish. "Well done" does not even begin to capture my response.

hedgewitch said...

The innocent who suffer in any bloodbath, the animals, the children, the simple who believe the lies, are indeed the holy ones. I once heard a Nam vet say--'don't call me a hero. The heros didn't come back.' Fine writing, harrowing the soul.

Helen said...

Kay put it quite well ... I can't compose a comment to do this epic piece justice. Just know how thoroughly I enjoyed reading it. It seeped into every pore in my body.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

So true. I hate the insanity of war, feeding young men into the belly of the war beast that never has his fill. But when it comes to sending horses into battle, insanity reaches new heights and my heart cant take the chaos and the terror they experience, without a voice, without any choice.What a powerful write this is, Shay.

Mary Ann Potter said...

Thoroughly true and terribly impressive. Some of the craziness that's been let loose in the world appears here in this powerful poem. So much in the poem and said so perfectly.

Laurie Kolp said...

Great prompt for Real Toads... and this is such a profound piece... I especially like the last two stanzas.

Rinkly Rimes said...

How many creatures have we sacrificed for our own useless ends?

Anonymous said...

You never cease to amaze me with your depth. You have so many layers to your writing, and every word is beautiful to read.

Heaven said...

A powerful voice you have here...I specially like the last verse...speechless in the mud ~

Cloudia said...

so many awesome lines here!

again you are the Vinner!

Warm Aloha from Waikiki
Comfort Spiral

> < } } ( ° >

TALON said...

It's the innocent who always suffer.

This was powerful and sad and wise, Shay.

Susie Clevenger said...

This is so go to war and must do as they are commanded even if the order is insanity...there is so much in this piece I love. I can't choose a favorite line. Kudos to you!!

Lydia said...

Someone else said holy molie, and I say holy schmoly. The same awestruck breathlessness is behind both phrases, though. I don't know for sure, Shay, but I think this is your best poem. It is one for the sages, the pages, and the ages.

Pretty sure now that you are a reincarnated being...

Kerry O'Connor said...

This gave me chills when I got to the part where you say the dumb beasts were holy... the only truly innocent victims of war. This is as potent as it gets.

Denise Moncrief said...

Oh, Wow. Such a powerful piece. I had to reread it twice and then I dwelt on the last stanza, especially "There was a war, and like all wars, It was a devil bathing in blood, Washing filthy vileness into us."

Margaret said...

"Glory fell dead in her boots the first week."
"He did not carry the stars inside his coat."
"It was a devil bathing in blood,"

Truly inspired and passionate writing. This is my favorite style of reading (and hopefully, someday, writing" straight from the gut, mind and soul..

Just powerful .... I don't have the words to do it justice.