keith holyoak

For the Last Soldier Killed in a War Since Forgotten

A bullet through a soldier's brain
      keeps him safe from pain
and dust will serve as well as mud
            to cover blood.
            Let wind and rain
      wear away the stain
on foreign ground, and never let
      some lingering regret
disturb the holidays back home;
            don't exhume
            old grieving now,
that grave's forgotten anyhow.
A baffled king who spoke with God
      sent him under sod,
brought him home on a midnight plane
            to be lost again.
            His father stood
      and dropped a single clod,
listened to it echo long
      until that too was gone.
After grave and heart were closed
            he dreamed the ghost
            of his soldier son
came back to ask if the war was won.
Won or lost, it's all the same
      once no one's left to blame.
"The king is dead; long live the king!"
            the children sing.
            It's such a shame
      the dead can't join our game;
wrap Peter in a shiny flag
      to make a body bag
and lay him out beneath the hill;
            then he keeps still,
            we let him stay,
and softly, softly, steal away.

copyright 2005 by Keith Holyoak
First printed in Orbis (2005)