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The American War Cemetery

 

Madingley

High atop the flag post flies
the Eagle dark against the sky.
In silken dance the Stars and Stripes
ride the brittle autumn light.
The great white wall for half a mile
whispers the names of distant dead
whose bodies lie in foreign lands
in old forgotten battlefields.

In semi-circle symmetry
more than four thousand crosses sweep
clean and white across the hill.
So many men, so many broken hearts,
a lifetime would not be enough
to tell, to shed so many tears,
to name each torn and mangled corpse
screaming through this peaceful grass.

A lone plane circling far above
cuts his engine a respectful while,
a thousand pilots’ breath is held
forever in a frozen smile,
and comrades side by side beneath
one aching cross, clench teeth and live
again in ghastly fantasy
the moment that they had … to die.

Neath George’s cross and David’s star
the old battalions lie and stare
with sightless eyes into the sky …
the silence hangs a long long while.
I am too young to understand
these soldiers marching in the ground,
for fifty years have passed, and still
the silence hangs upon the land.

The anger and the pain are there,
the screaming stench of burning flesh,
shells bursting in my mind, and then
the black black years death leaves behind.
Is this the way of peace? Cushioning
old wounds in soft forgetful hills.
Building marble halls to shout
the braver deeds that war brings out,
with great mosaics on the wall
in letters gold on marble page.

The shadows lengthen on the hill,
a soldier turns, marches slowly away.

 

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