Waiting For The Bloodbath (1917)
There, at the parapet, part-built with corpses,
Where we dug out the two year old bones of the French,
Stands on the second rung of the ladder,
The corporal keeping watch from the lip of the trench.
His periscope scans the fields of the wasteland,
Where bodies hang rag-like on coils of barbed wire,
And he watches for movement in no man’s land
By the thump of distant batteries, and the glow of distant fires.
We wait, sipping whiskey with water and sugar,
Smoking Woodbines in hands cupped to guard from the rain,
Supping from tin cans as cold gnaws the marrow,
And the wind from the south howls across the terrain.
Something may happen, or something may not,
In the ominous silence that floats like black clouds,
The gas gangrene stink of the damp rotting flesh,
Floats the dreadful reeking of old funeral shrouds.
Should they come, we will rush out to greet them,
At least then the waiting will be at an end,
We will rush out to greet them, with whistle and screaming,
With rifle and bayonet, attack and defend.
In waiting we think of life and of home, of all that is holy,
Yet death and abandonment and Satan’s thrall,
Bids there in the future a writer will write
Of innocence wasted, of we who would fall.
Waiting for the signal flare, as comrades have before us,
To be cut to bloody ribbons in the charge into the fray,
Staccato hail of lead mowing men like wheat,
To gain an inch or so of mud and never see another day.
For now, waiting for the bloodbath that itself waits to unfold,
To unleash the will of generals which decree our dreadful fate,
The fears and silent tears, the seconds damned expire,
In the absence of humanity, for all the world we wait.