I Went Down

I went down to the battlefield, and saw myself.
The hatred, jealousy, and despair
    spoke to my heart, echoing there,
    resonating within my soul.

I went down to the battlefield, and saw myself
    amid the carnage and the blood, 
    the unbridled rage, passion without bounds
    acted out upon that stage. 
No truer reflection of passions within me could exist,
    passions hidden deep inside, kept caged only by my will
    not to be consumed by them.

I went down to the battlefield, and saw myself
    staring sightlessly at the sky, whose vibrant blue
    would never again touch my soul with joy;
The fleeting pleasure in its simple beauty gone forever,
    sacrificed to the savage power of the passions of those
    who now lay dead around my cooling corpse.

But then I found that I still stood, still breathed,
    still saw the death and destruction 
    beneath that bright blue sky.
For the passions that had spilled out in this place, 
    on this day, 
    were not mine.
This time, the passions of others had run 
    hot and red upon the ground, only to congeal 
    and cool forever.
No, my passions were still contained within me.  
For now.

I went down to the battlefield, but did not see myself
    among the gray shapes of the People of the Twilight,
    who lived on the edge of someone else's war, 
    amid someone else's rubble;
Now they moved among the dead, among those piles of flesh
    that had once laughed and loved, 
    but now lay stripped of their humanity.
I watched, horrified, fascinated, as these shadow creatures 
    stripped the dead of material things, 
    of belts and buttons, shoes and bayonets.

I went down among the Twilight People, but did not see myself
    in these desecrators of the dead.
Filled with revulsion, I followed, a darker shadow 
    stealing unnoticed among those shadows 
    as they stole back to their little village, 
    clutching their treasures.
Shoes for those whose feet were bare.
Jackets to blunt the teeth of the chill winter winds.
Bayonets, once used to strip the life from others, now used 
    to scrape sustenance from the impoverished earth.

As I watched, an ancient man with an ancient smile
    strung bright brass buttons from a dead soldier's coat, 
    onto a broken boot lace.
I followed him down to a covered basket, 
    all wicker and cloth.
He drew back the cover, presenting his odd creation, 
    sparkling in the sun like a strand of precious gems, 
    to the being within.
His toothless old smile was reflected in the toothless young smile
    that greeted him from the basket.
His clouded eyes mirrored the delight in the bright young eyes 
    that knew nothing of war, even as war raged all around.

And there, in those trusting, naive eyes,
    in the tinkle of joyous laughter
    untainted by the human misery all around,
I saw myself.

David Garstang (mid 1996)

Inspired by, and dedicated to, my friend Skeleton.
No one can make it right,
but maybe you can make it better.

(Go back to My Writings)