old man Keats

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

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

i limp lost into a battle
black and red armies at war
death and 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 ruins shelter my pack unpacked
groundsheet water peasant food
‘hours of idleness’

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

those trained to die do quickly
survivors dance a killing ballet
flow burns their small victories to ash

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

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

the battle sprints
the others swarm

but one 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

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

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