old man Keats

i’m walking these empty lands
i’m old slow and graceless
the air’s bracing a lonely cold

i’m enthralled by recollection
we here such love
so young

i lost limp onto war
black red military battle
the stench of dogma

i’m too slow
they execute could–be spies
dying surely waits for me

if i’m to die violent
i’ll sneer the killers
i’ll be all they can’t

i shelter ruins
i lay my pack unpacked
groundsheet peasant food water
‘hours of idleness’*

the battle flows turbulent
unpredictable waves conflict
the blood wash nears ebbs nears

those trained to die do quickly
survivors dance the killing ballet
turning luck burns their victory

a squad and sergeant tumble me accidental
glance aghast at my civil taunt
one lad speaks a runner runs

and returns a captain rides up
like the emperor he used to be
sad laughter the squad is guard

the battle sprints
the others swarm
confrontation

but a man shouts ‘old man Keats’
shock stop and hardly believe
both swarms curse and tension guard

sod the lot of them
when we were here
wilderness lovers
we were a better bang

even though i’m dead
i’m not allowed to die
but soon i will run the dark road
return to you


*byron’s first collection

poem

2K0:2

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