Other Poems by:

Frederick Hinchcliffe

War Story

Then you'd shoulder a black barrel
or a long bow or a halberd
and you'd fall in with a lot
of filthy-mouthed fighters
looters and rapists and thieves
where the alternative might have been
prison or poverty or boredom 

Then you'd put on a hat and a shirt
with a heraldic device;
you'd feel as one, form up as one,
march as one, stand as one,
cry out as one, fire as one
and when it was toe to toe
with the enemy 

Then you might die
but you would die alone
the enveloping black
welling up from within
while the crash and the clash
fell away became silent
till you moved no more 

But if by chance you escaped
you gathered up the dead
and burned them in piles
while the vultures turned and turned
for to leave even your enemies
to be torn to shreds was to deny them
entrance to Valhalla 

Then perhaps too you would rage
through the conquered land
worse than the plague
for the plague only killed
while you would pillage
and plunder and dishonor
and fight drunken among yourselves 

Then you might die
but you would die alone
the enveloping black
welling up from within
while the tumult and tempest
fell away became silent
till you sensed no more 

But if by chance you set foot
in the town of your birth
old as a rock and toughened by war
and the dogs slunk away
and the women looked down
and the men hid indoors
for death was the look in your eyes 

Then you knew that you owned
the three honors of war
the warrior's right to fierce death
the conqueror's grant of spoils
and the right to shame any man
unless in fact you were the dirt
everyone thought you were 

Then in any case you would die
alone with your thoughts
the enveloping black
welling up from within
while the silence of the night
summed up your life and
sat in judgment of you 

But it is different now
you go toe to toe with a whore
then drink or smoke to forget
your sins and your debts
ride out in a bullet-banged hulk
to shoot up a village
praying it's not a trap 

While a cockamamie king
adjusting his ermine lies
about the honor of death
the diversion of spoils
the shaming of men
and becomes the dirt
that fills up your throat 

When you're gunshot and fall
and you're lying alone
the enveloping black
welling up from within
then you know that your life
was worthlessly spent
to polish a tin crown 

- Frederick Hinchliffe 2nd

from the book of revolutions--the secret life of trees

if I kill you, army of one,
you will nonetheless die alone,
seed of a disposable society
that casts its young to the wind;
the family, too, will I kill
for their seed is spent
and they will wither
without progeny or fortune.

But should you kill me,
man of many means,
you will crush a bud
where five more will grow;
for we are a tree,
of parts all the same,
and the nourishment
that flows into us
is the hope of dispatching
our enemies - to die alone.

Pila Çik
translated by
Frederick Hinchliffe 2nd
**Copyright 2007 Frederick Hinchliffe
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