Friday, February 17, 2006

A Crown For A Peasant

There is the last one, strung across the barbed wire, face down, a diver into hell from the hell they gave him on earth. I close my eyes against the shakes again, imagining him arcing up to heaven with God at his side. But this means nothing to those of us left behind because even the thought of eternal life fades out in comparison to these muddy places. Oblivion is about all we can hope for. I don’t know if he is there but at least he is not here.

I think I cannot trust myself to pick up this one, apart from the terrible possibility of his complete physical disintegration; there is the chance of my mind following him. I turn myself round, smuts in my eye again I think but maybe it is fear. Of course it is fear. After a few times, I used to like looking at the faces until they began to turn up in my dreams, blackened heads with mud for hair and worse things. Now I get them out of my sight and back to collection places.

Someday they will put up nice fields of flowers around these limed pits, something to remember them all by, somewhere for the relatives to come and see but why spend all the money on that? Money, the politics that lead to war, they are all the same thing when you compare it to what we live through. Maybe the historians will throw old battles back at me, a pile of sentences, dry as dust, a justification in the style of this is the way its always been; the intelligent ones send us animals out to fight for them. This time it’s different; the machines guns stutter out far more of the officers than they can replace from the gentlemen who started out commanding us and now down the ranks they are picking up anybody. They have broken the ceiling which kept us apart and us rough clods know how things are for the world. Maybe in the long run this will be then end of the partition, some sort of revolution. In the end we are all equal and those of us who get back will tell everyone. We will make sure everyone will remember and the world will change. I want to be sure than in 100 years time, the people, none of whom have gone to fight, will remember what we went through. Maybe it will just fade in their memory and then it will start all over again.

We should take photographs; write home, all the things that the old soldiers could not do. I think of the old bowmen, stumbling back into their villages, quiet and resolved to be happy for those that loved them and sad for those who have no one to come home to them. They didn’t say how terrible things were, but we can. We don’t need the wars, except to get revenge for the death of some fat aristocrat or the need to make profit from other things. Sometimes I feel that I must be mad saying this, because from call-up to this moment, everyone has been good to us. Even the Germans carried some of our wounded men back to our trenches. That is what is so mad; in minute a man can go from machine gunning a man to cleaning a wound he himself inflicted. It’s the same with all these conventions and treaties. How can you make rules about war? It’s not a game you can define. Even the honourable players have to deceive the enemy; no one stands up like in a duel to allow the other fellow to get a good shot. If we could go invisible by selling our souls to the devil (as if we haven’t already) we would do it to creep round the back of the trenches and then drop on the Bosch like Greek fire. And then we would patch up the burns and send them home, if they survive. Where can we say we will not be sneaky, that we will not carry out atrocities? Then the lucky ones will pack up, go home and pretend to our families that we were all good.

I sometimes wonder if those back home, believe what is happening out here, well what they are told by the newspapers. One day the war will end and could we ever go back to good relations? We cannot get over that feeling of resentment that must remain. I dreamed of the end of the war last night but I saw clouds and darkness in the heart of the countryside. Not the poor wretches who live around here for they will come back to this wasteland and make it green and pleasant again. No, I see the celebrations on one side and the despair on the other. And then it starts all over again. War on war on war without end. Machine guns will chatter down through this century and the next and when we are all fought out in this small muddy corner, we will join together and find someone weaker than ourselves to start playing with. Those boys who made the tanks will think up bigger and better things to kill people with until the young men (and probably the women as well by then) will just be rank-upon-rank marching into deep pits as the guns cut them down. Those are my dreams at the moment.

We will make it back tonight, for it seems very quiet. I can only look forward to bad food, welcome though it will be and some reading in the corner. All those brave big men who came out here, ribbing us quieter ones over our books, are either dead or huddle with us, borrowing our poems and stories of green home. Bet the Germans are the same, only just over there. I could shout and ask them with no effort. What are you reading jerry? Want to send it over? I can swap you for The Rubaiyat. Got a fag?

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