Cannon smoke clears to reveal two soldiers among the dead,
barely thirteen, dark grays ill-fitting, muskets unfired.
The victors have moved on, and vanquished retreated,
leaving among the sweep of bodies only these pathetic two,
who either because of cowardice or incompetence,
appear unworthy of being celebrated, not even killed.
With immunity, they shuffle among prostrate men,
careful not to step on hands and feet, as if they could feel.
On some faces, eyes are closed tight, as if wincing from the
On one, a lazy eye watches a hawk soaring above all like a
But these are dead, it is slowly sinking in, even to these
who wander about the field as if unsure what to do,
where to go, as if eager fathers forced them into uniforms,
provided them muskets, but never revealed the cause
for the mad rush of armies on a cloudless afternoon.
Is the battle even over? Are they in proper positions?
Should they follow the others, look for stragglers to kill?
Should they fall like cowards, and pretend to be dead?
They could do no worse than those scattered about them.
Don't the dead realize they can no longer move or speak?
"This is my last battle," one whispers through clenched
Finally, weary and apathetic, the two living soldiers
drawing at their canteens, watching ants struggle in the
so that they do not even notice when, as after all battles,
dead souls begin to rise up, fanning away smoke.
Some stride arm in arm, comrades forever, while others,
sick of the whole charade, plod off alone into the trees.
by Thomas D. Reynolds
... who is a teacher at Johnson County Community College,
combining folklore and history in his poetry, which has been
published in a variety of journals, including New Delta
Review, Alabama Literary Review,
Aethlon - The Journal of Sport Literature,
American Western Magazine, Strange
Horizons, Midwest Poetry Review,
Poetry Midwest, and The
MacGuffin. Members of his family served honorably in
World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.