Having divided into camps,
And the camps having formed alliances,
We went to cacophonous war.
On the one side
On the other.  Each of us fuelled by pride
To remember always the dogma
And the enemy.

Caught out in no-man’s-land,
The poet, sprawling beneath the barbed wire,
Desperate to evade the crossfire
And defiant of every high command,
Refused to write to please
General Jacques or poor old I.A.
Beneath the moon, on hands and knees,
He scratched out his art whichever way
The impulse seemed to demand.
And ignorant of proprieties,
Or perhaps aware, he would compose
Sometimes a villanelle, sometimes intense prose,
Sometimes with rhyme and sometimes not.

But when morning came, and neither side had won,
We found the poet’s bones had been licked clean
By the dogmas of war, his poems nailed to trees.
And each of us seeing what we had done,
The fruits of our follies being quite plain,
In penance, we printed and praised the poet
In anthologies.  Then began fighting again.

© Mark Milner

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