To One Who Was With Me in the War
It was too long ago—that Company which we served with . . .
We call it back in visual fragments, you and I,
Who seem, ourselves, like relics casually preserved, with
Our mindfulness of old bombardments when the sky
With blundering din blinked cavernous.
Yet a sense of power
Invades us when, recapturing an ungodly hour
Of ante-zero crisis, in one thought we’ve met
To stand in some redoubt of Time,—to share again
All but the actual wetness of the flare-lit rain,
All but the living presences who haunt us yet
With gloom-patrolling eyes.
Remembering, we forget
Much that was monstrous, much that clogged our souls with clay
When hours were guides who led us by the longest way—
And when the worst had been endured could still disclose
Another worst to thwart us . . .
We forget our fear . . .
And, while the uncouth Event begins to lour less near,
Discern the mad magnificence whose storm-light throws
Wild shadows on these after-thoughts that send your brain
Back beyond Peace, exploring sunken ruinous roads.
Your brain, with files of flitting forms, hump-backed with loads,
On its own helmet hears the tinkling drops of rain,—
Follows to an end some night-relief, and strangely sees
The quiet no-man’s-land of day-break, jagg’d with trees
That loom like giant Germans . . .
I’ll go with you, then,
Since you must play this game of ghosts. At listening-posts
We’ll peer across dim craters; joke with jaded men
Whose names we’ve long forgotten. (Stoop low here; it’s the place
The sniper enfilades.) Round the next bay you’ll meet
A drenched platoon-commander; chilled, he drums his feet
On squelching duck-boards; winds his wrist-watch; turns his head,
And shows you how you looked,—your ten-years-vanished face
Hoping the War will end next week . . .
What’s that you said?