Act One (1918)

He pressed against the rough parapet,

Ankle deep in putrid mud

Oblivious to the stench of filth and rot

Meandering through the trenches,

Home to:

Red-eyed rats — fat and satisfied,

Blank-eyed soldiers — gaunt and terrified.

Heedless of the horror below, a soft spring breeze

Unwittingly wafted Death’s miasma

Beyond crater-pocked hell

Into the battle-ravaged town.

Palms sweat-slicked, licking dry lips,

He waited—

The officer’s whistle shrieked once,

Over the top, he sprang, bellowing,

Head low, rifle clutched, sprinting

Towards barbed wire tangles.

 

Machine guns clattered.

In mid-step, he paused, confused,

Features softening, rifle dropping,

He slid slowly into the slime.

In a gun’s flash,

All dreams, all hopes extinguished.

Forever, nineteen,

His friends called him Jimmy.

Act Two  (1944 )

He crouched inside the landing craft

Sweat-drenched, shivering, teeth chattering,

The bloodshot dawn broke over him

As thunderous shelling ceased.

A silent shroud blanketed Normandy

For an eternal second.

 

Suddenly, revving up, powerful motors

Propelled his squad

Towards the strip of dreaded beach;

Enemy mortar fire, defiant, roared back.

Bursting shells, rocking his LST,

Exploded others into lethal fragments.

Clasping his helmet, he hunkered

 Into the steel womb’s safety,

Broken by the sergeant’s yell, “Ready!”

The ramp dropped.

Out he shot, shouting,

Head held low, rifle held high,

Stumbling and splashing,

Toward scarred sandy shores.

 

Machine guns clattered.

In mid-step, he paused, surprised,

Features relaxing, rifle dropping,

He slid beneath rolling surf.

 

In a gun’s flash,

 All dreams, all hopes drowned.

Forever, nineteen,

His friends called him Jimmy.

Act Three (l970)

He lay in the tall grasses, tense, listening,

Mud slithered up his arms, down his neck,

Oblivious to teeming insects and dank, steamy heat,

He waited.

 

Behind him the jungle slid closer

And still he waited, motionless, silent,

Blending with waving ferns and tawny earth.

 

Then, he heard it

Softly in the distance, a humming,

His heart leaping, eyes searching,

He waited.

 

Then— the beat, beat, beat of rotors,

As the menacing jungle inched nearer,

And one battered Huey set down.

 

Up he leapt, legs pumping,

Head low, rifle swinging, he raced

Towards the helicopter and life.

 

Machine guns clattered.

 

In mid-step, he paused, puzzled,

Features loosening, rifle dropping,

He collapsed, sucked into the bog.

 

In a gun’s flash,

All dreams, all hopes squashed.

Forever, nineteen,

His friends called him Jimmy.

-Eleanor Kidd-

A book of poems by Eleanor is now available for purchase at Jamieson’s General Store.

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