A week before the Armistice, you died. They did not keep your heart like Livingstone’s, then plant your bones near Shakespeare’s. So you lie between two privates, sacrificed like Christ to politics, your poetry unknown except for that brief flurry’s: thirteen months with Gaukroger beside you in the trench, dismembered, as you babbled, as the stench of gangrene filled your nostrils, till you clenched your broken heart together and the fist began to pulse with life, so close to death.
Or was it at Craiglockhart, in the care of "ergotherapists" that you sensed life is only in the work, and made despair a thing that Yeats despised, but also breath, a mouthful’s merest air, inspired less than wrested from you, and which we confess we only vaguely breathe: the troubled air that even Sassoon failed to share, because a man in pieces is not healed by gauze, and breath’s transparent, unless we believe the words are true despite their lack of weight and float to us like chlorine--scalding eyes, and lungs, and hearts. Your words revealed the fate of boys who died in trenches, gagged on lies.
Originally published by The Chariton Review
What the Poet Sees
What the poet sees, he sees as a swimmer underwater, watching the shoreline blur, sees through his breath’s weightless bubbles ... Both worlds grow obscure.