The Old Masters worked
With no more intensity of perfection
Before a vast scene of carnage
Getting each detail of man and beast
Just so in oil and tempera,
Than my brother
Ranked his legions of plastic men
In our room, setting each olive-toned soldier
In such a position that he could fire
But be exposed to no fire on the oaken floor,
Though we didn’t see the need for camouflage,
So each one lay naked and alone.
And, besides, the color itself was wrong;
Every man a naked thumb of dull green
On that flat, waxed surface would
Have been blasted to oblivion by the artillery
Placed commandingly on the looming heights
Of toy chest and bed.
He did better when we found a threadbare carpet,
Making ripples like hills and trenches
In the tangled, thick background,
So the grateful troopers could hunker down
Exposing only their weapons
And the tips of their helmets,
Establishing a field of death without standing out
Like frightened immobile rabbits
In some imaginary meadow, thinking
They are invisible to all-seeing predators.
He would set them in long lines
And curves following the run
Of that day’s terrain from one length of the room
To the corner and then start at some random point
Hammering one side against the other,
All the while making sharp noises
Of shots; some men miraculously missed
In the hail of fire, others mercilessly slaughtered
At the first volley. But one side, usually those
Who held the high ground of the bed, would
Prevail in a field mathematical possibilities,
And find glorious victory.
Took on no despairing looks of fear,
No mercy was implored, no prisoners
Were taken, though in an hour or a day
The implacable, faceless foes would
Find themselves elbow to elbow with
Those who had fought most bitterly
There is no
resurrection from this oblivion,
from the dark necessity to live
again and again.
Copyright 2004 by David King .
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry 360 with permission of the author.