BBWB 20: No Mans Land

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No Mans Land

How hard had train’d true-hearted men
For this elusive moment
On, steady, in platoons of ten
The Black Watch went

Tho’ pipes did strike a Spartan pace
No spirit needeth stirring
The valourness of Fingal’s race
Was every footstep spurring

With impetus & oestro high
March Scotia’s soldier-bards
A sergeant major’s next to die
Those hard two hundred yards

Across the way the Germans say,
“The moles have left their holes,”
Them with a sweeping bullet spray
This steady progress stalls

A tumbling here, a stumbling there
As crumbles the advance
Once solid mass now spaced with air
Unsewn by happenstance

Wrought from the random wheel of War
Men spun upon roulette tables
With Heaven as their warrantor
Them fram’d as Cains & Abels

A rat-a-tat, a rat-a-tat
& rat-a-tat Death roams
Lead scattering this way & that
In gory honeycombs

For thirty yards they brave the burst
Then drop as if in training
When synchronicity rehears’d
Avoids the hell-hail raining

Alas the facing firing trench
Hath swiftly suss’d the tactic
Off-holding triggers ’til each wrench
Of khaki barques upstick

With rat-a-tat along the line
Men batter’d broke & bleeding
Grass splattering with claret wine
By men for mothers pleading

Those parents who had paid the tolls
Of lifetimes, for their boys,
Only to turn to lifeless dolls,
Like royalty’s toys

‘O tis a terrifying thing
To walk towards one’s death
This step I take, is there a sting
Is this my final breath?’

Thought George, then drops, a boy’s clean cheeks
Beside, whose face was flapping
“I’ll be alright,” soft Doric creaks
As if awoke from napping

For glorious assault was theirs,
“I’m wounded but not slain
I’ll lie awhile,” the lad declares,
“Then rise & fight again.”

From out beyond the Loss-Lens lines
Enemy artillery
Shoots shrapnel spines of porcupines
To this savage pillory

Of jagged iron insanities
Exploding flagellant
To level off the vanities
With sinister intent

Sharp-pointed leadbarbs struck the Watch
In legs, in arms, in head
In chest, in throat, in knees, in crotch
In foot, in jaws.. as bled

Deep seeping into Flanders soil
The bloodlines of the Scottish
Gone swaggering into the boil
Of bullets swish-swish-swish

As Wullie McIntyre did stride
Across the field of view
Men fell away on either side
& now he takes one too

He hit the ground, he tasted dust
He knew his life was ending
His plans of youth & age all crush’d,
The cloak of death descending

He hit the ground, he smelt the earth
He felt each fibre dying
Long flashback to his babybirth
Like then he started crying

For Arran’s large & lofty crags
Rose up so splendid grand
Inside his mind, while antler’d stags
Did silhouetted stand

Then conjur’d he Kildonan strand;
There’s Ailsa Craig, there’s Pladda
As lighthouse lit the lantern sand
Each second soul slain sadder

Until he saw a silver light
Moonshining, astral zones
Like temples spread, where sharp upright
In starlight stood the stones

Of Machrie Moor, a sacred space
Where druids once paid service
To maidens of an ancyent race
In sacrificial bliss

For Arran is a magic isle
For anyone who knows
Where Danaan princes cairns did pile
Consecrating heroes

“Goodbye my island,” Wullie sigh’d
His whisperings disband
The very moment that he died
In the middle of No Mans Land

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