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I saw a boy today bang upon a drum,
as I walked beside names left silent,
from over there they'd come.

Rows of lads laid waste in many days gone by,
a last post played, whilst we stood around,
some looking vacant, snapping shots,
others cried aloud.

As the bugle call echoed past its final note,
a murmur seemed to issue forth,
from each nervous, disquietened throat.

It was as if the silence was for all too much to bare,
56000, in parts,
remembered, lying there.

And why was it that young men gave their limbs?
For on those walls were writ all those Generals whims.

So I stood quietly as the crowd dispersed,
like ghosts departing,
having honoured life, and death,
and worse.

I walked around,
and gazed upon the lives left there,
chiselled names, chiselled fame,
left open, stripped, and bare,
an arch of travesty and despair.

And as the sun receded once again,
i wondered if in the coming night,
we would send more boys to die in fright?

-What do you know at 19?

A walk,
measured of years and yearnings left denied,
of loves and tears never cried,
songs not sung, nor token chuckles made,
each step accompanied all to fade.

On every wall, emblazoned family crests,
sank deep the bits in bloody muddy mess,
left for us the generations to confess.

Sikh, Sepoy, Nepalese, Aussie boy,
South African, Canadian, Kiwi, Brit and more,
Do we keep account?,
Did they know the score?

The Drummer Boy
- Menin Gate -

It seemed as though the questions,
left unanswered on my silent pilgrimage,

mounted with each step,
upon that fateful bridge.

I stood aghast beside another towering wall,
the letters showering down upon me,
too much, too many, to ever faithfully recall.

And then I heard a drum,
beat, sure and slow at first,
as the flat hand slapped the skin,
surround, my heart to burst.

I gazed upon the wall beside me towering high,
and there, a drummer boy,
enshrined, in me began to fly.

The tabla beat, frenetically on,
the deep base note, steady, - resonant,
the soulful march never hesitant.

C.S. Steed had set his beat,
at Ypres, millennia ago,
his march a captive dance,
upon the ear of friend and foe,
off to battle, into War,
into pieces he would go.

Yet as the boy played on,
his mesmeric incantation wrung,
upon the wall, then in me,
a vital soul was sung.

A deepened note of rankled joy,
set down upon my heart,
with every beat a memory bound,
and freed again to start.

-A stony plinth stands alone
beside the Menin Gate,
recounting Indians lost.
that tabla found them out again, yet late,
their bodies torn and tossed-

The Drummer Boy is playing still,
one name do I recall,
the Tabla beat within my heart,
his names upon that wall.

RMP (2010)

 
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