BBWB 14: War Wounds

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THE BALLAD OF BLACK WATCH BRODICK

CANTO 14

War Wounds


O peerless Sarah Fullarton,
That all the islesmen chase
In the world no fairer woman
In converse or embrace

As scarlet locks of knots & curls
Glories to each man’s sight;
Her sparkling eyes, like orient pearls,
Did cast heavenly light.

& blood both sides her elfin nose
Did such a color drive,
As if the lily and the rose
For mastery did strive

But one man only her heart moves
George Goldthorpe’s gone to war
The urge to see him too strong proves
She joins the Nurses’ Corps

Where nearby Wipres, Yipps or Eeps,
In doleful hours of battle-din,
T’where Nightingale her vigil keeps
They’ve brought the wounded in

The Nurses commandeer a train
Stretchers turn to makeshift beds
About, between, white angels reign
Deaconesses with cool heads

In every space the train was pack’d
With death & blood & groaning
Brave young men whom that morn attack’d
Like old men lay down moaning

Whose injuries horrific, new,
From warfare mechanized
The Devil’s handiwork ran through
In Hades halls devised

There’s wounds from shrapnel, mortar, mine,
Grenade, flame thrower, gas,
How could the omnisoul divine
Allow such things to pass

Then thro’ the mess diseases swarm
All yuck & gangrenous
Swelling & swimming, yellow, warm
Under mucky bandages

Arm’d with a pail & dressing tray
Went Sarah’s iron jaw
& banish’d for another day
All horrors there she saw

None ghastlier e’er seen on earth
Nor smelt, nor wonder’d at,
Like growing clawmarks dragging girth
Gor’d by a thundercat

With lysol wounds were swabb’d well clean
Set for the staple dressing
A gauze dipped deep in iodine
Tight bandag’d for compressing

Thro’ fractured spine, pneumonia
Enteric, tetanus
Malignant ankle oedema
& mangl’d pelvises

Her conscious bad ones speak not back
Morosely melancholy
But set, “to have another smack.”
The better ones bounce jolly.

The one outstanding, shining thing
That, working, Sarah struck
Was the lack of all complaining
& the total silent pluck

Of men eas’d out of blood-soaked clothes
Halting each hæmorrhage
Then pander’d into soft repose
With scambl’d eggs & porridge

Now suffers one from shock alone
Can’t tell his name, nor stand
Just shivers, shudder, sits like stone
& only holds her hand

A boy of barely twenty one
With legs shorn at the knees
Goes, ‘thank you nurse, that’s champion,’
When she’ll discomforts ease

& officers’ rightfully pleas’d
To see ‘The Times,’ no matter
How old it was, the sheets were seized
& thro’ the beds did scatter

She tends a soldier from Portree
Who thought she was her mother
Who babbles continuously
Of this, that & the other

Of Germans, ammunition, guns,
Of Jocks, of shells, of rations,
He yells his stories, sighs & stuns
All by him with his passions

With strychnine and morphia
They soothe the worst headcases
Who calling on euphoria
Fall backwards with leadfaces

From hoary ribbon’d officers
To privates at inception
She’d found the British Army was
Polite without exception

Where’er she was, did go, or wait,
They’d always come and ask
To open doors, faciliate
Or plain take on her task

& nothing changes when them led
On stretchers wounded grim
For British men by Grandmas bred
& what they’d think of him

An everpresence in the room
The female spirit flowing
The sacred keeper of the womb
The shield of earth all-knowing

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