Flags flutter and fall

This dream…..this dream
haunts, it will not release me.
Men dressed in gray rags,
sunken eyes, hollow cheeks,
heads hung, shuffling down
a dusty desolate red rime road.
Some with shoes, some barefooted.
They parade in lines of hundreds,
in small groups, a few stumble alone.
Men with slack mouths, dumbfounded.
“How did they get here,” I ask.
A voice answers in a whisper,
“They lost, in defeat they lost.”
I cannot speak to them, for
my heart is heavy, not for their loss,
for their humanity, their despair.
“Why have they come to this?”
The voice answers,
“Their cause was not just,
their belief was not valid.”
Before me a passing wagon moans
filled with broken bandaged men,
flies attack their festering wounds.
The air is heavy with the scent of battle,
gun powder, steel, blood and flesh.
It is a pitiless horror, a waste,
as are all wars through the ages.
Winners suffer as much as the conquered.
The earth groans to absorb the violence.
The tears that stain my cheeks burn,
their acrid path seared by sorrow.
“There is so much pain,” I say.
“It is a nation’s to bear,” intones the voice.
“For what was lost will never be,
what will be will heal the wounds.
That which divided will bond the parts.”
The ragged men begin to fade from sight,
filing over the crest of a southern leading hill.
Bathed in a sunset of crimson, the
blue sky a background with lines of stars.
As darkness descends on this scene,
guidons cast off their red gilded staffs,
all their flags of honor have fluttered and fallen.

© 2011, Donald Harbour

6 thoughts on “Flags flutter and fall

  1. A fabulous piece of writing about a nightmare experience. I didn’t want to read it, but I was compelled to, right to the end, in awe at the language.

    Your picky proofreader wonders if “stubble” should be “stumble”.


  2. Chilling in its clarity! Beautiful, in a way that word doesn’t mean. It shines a light. Hideous truth, then just becomes like dust… a just dessert?

    You’ve made a new eye-sight on an old well worn theme. Clear clear writing Donald. This gives ordinary a second breath. (Not all an easy thing to do.) Well done!


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