A Price To Pay

And as I flew through the air enjoying the crowd’s
appreciation of my reckless abandonment
Bearing no concern for life or limb,
in the then present
With zero regard for what the future had in store;
This, a young man, exiting his twenties;
As a personal prologue
Too deeply etched, never forgotten
The many shades, which at times diminish the pain
Never fully does it disappear
Each an alternating segment of life
Bringing with it future memories to be lived
As new shades dissolve revealing its currency,
or a summons to be paid
Recalling a collision, be it mind or body, doesn’t require any
special skills;
Pain will always be pain,
Mental or physical;
Hurting like hell for a split second, then following the momentary
relief brought on by a pill or subsequent unconsciousness,
It all too soon returns without glory or fanfare.
But return it ultimately will,
Dosage? Perhaps of a lifetime, its duration.
Hello, my future has arrived.
It came in ten-year gulps
Too speedily to comprehend
Both shoulders ache; thanks to God they are mine
While my left knee groans out the same song.
They too are mine
The penalties endured by this older man
brazen disregard bringing forward
Punishments received
Once a youthful mind and body
Years upon me without discrimination
Unrelenting, without warning, or the extent of suffering to
be revealed
Always disregarding the time or importance of my day.
At work, at play, during the confines of sleep
A young man enquires of my wisdom…
“How do you endure, and to what end?” He asks.
“If you can, examine my alternatives,” I respond.
“If the hurt remains, with justification, so too will I remain.
Without this life to live, there will be no pain.”
The young man’s eyes grow more quizzical…
“Each day I laugh at all things being offered me…
and yes, I sometimes cry as well.”
“What do you laugh and cry about?” Another question.
“Giving and taking, mostly,” is my response.
As was expected the young man didn’t get it.
People leave and they return.
I may smile and I may cry.
Never thinking about it
It just happens, no certain way
But always in a certain way
Boys and men, from the time this great country of ours was formed, strode out to war, some returning, and some remaining as fallen heroes on battlefields to be forever deplored. All damaged to the man. Without exception, being in the ungodly position of harm’s way will never provide for the memories to ever be cleansed from any soldier’s soul – the sights, the sounds, and the total disbelief over what will eternally be etched within our human mind’s eye.
Many years ago as a high school drama student I came across a poem written by Robert W. Service.
The poem was recited in class, and then repeated over again on a few separate occasions during the remainder of the semester. With all that transpires repeatedly on our globe, as we have come to expect it to happen, it occurred to me perhaps the relevance of a young sergeant in the Canadian Army might ring a pertinent bell with those of you who may have experienced some of the doctrine of loss.
By Robert W. Service
The Wounded Canadian Speaks
My leg? It’s off at the knee.
Do I miss it? Well, some. You see
I’ve had it since I was born;
And lately a devilish corn.
(I rather chuckle with glee
To think how I’ve fooled that corn.)
But I’ll hobble around all right.
It isn’t that, it’s my face.
Oh, I know I’m a hideous sight,
Hardly a thing in place.
Sort of gargoyle, you’d say.
Nurse won’t give me a glass,
But I see the folks as they pass
Shudder and turn away;
Turn away in distress…
Mirror enough, I guess.
I’m gay! You bet I am gay,
But I wasn’t a while ago.
If you’d seen me even to-day,
The darnedest picture of woe,
With this Caliban mug of mine,
So ravaged and raw and red,
Turned to the wall — in fine
Wishing that I was dead….
What has happened since then,
Since I lay with my face to the wall,
The most despairing of men!
Listen! I’ll tell you all.
That poilu across the way,
With the shrapnel wound on his head,
Has a sister: she came to-day
To sit awhile by his bed.
All morning I heard him fret:
“Oh, when will she come, Fleurette?”
Then sudden, a joyous cry;
The tripping of little feet;
The softest, tenderest sigh;
A voice so fresh and sweet;
Clear as a silver bell,
Fresh as the morning dews:
“C’est toi, cest toi, Marcel!
Mon frère, comme je suis heureuse!”
So over the blanket’s rim
I raised my terrible face,
And I saw — how I envied him!
A girl of such delicate grace;
Sixteen, all laughter and love;
As gay as a linnet, and yet
As tenderly sweet as a dove;
Half woman, half child — Fleurette.
Then I turned to the wall again.
(I was awfully blue, you see,)
And I thought with a bitter pain:
“Such visions are not for me.”
So there like a log I lay,
All hidden, I thought, from view,
When sudden I heard her say,
“Ah! Who is that malheureux?
Then briefly I heard him tell
(However he came to know)
How I’d smothered a bomb that fell
Into the trench, and so
None of my men were hit,
Though it busted me up a bit.
Well, I didn’t quiver an eye,
And he chattered and there she sat;
And I fancied I heard her sigh —
But I wouldn’t just swear that.
And maybe she wasn’t so bright,
Though she talked in a merry strain,
And I closed my eyes ever so tight,
Yet I saw her ever so plain:
Her dear little tilted nose,
Her delicate, dimpled chin,
Her mouth like a budding rose,
And the glistening pearls within;
Her eyes like the violet:
Such a rare little queen — Fleurette.
And at last when she rose to go,
The light was a little dim,
And I ventured to peep, and so
I saw her, graceful and slim,
And she kissed him and kissed him, and oh
How I envied and envied him!
So when she was gone I said
In rather a dreary voice
To him of the opposite bed:
“Ah, friend, how you must rejoice!
But me, I’m a thing of dread.
For me nevermore the bliss
The thrill of a woman’s kiss.”
Then I stopped, for lo! she was there,
And a great light shone in her eyes.
And me! I could only stare,
I was taken so by surprise,
When gently she bent her head:
May I kiss you, sergeant?” she said.
Then she kissed my burning lips,
With her mouth like a scented flower,
And I thrilled to the finger-tips,
And I hadn’t even the power
To say: “God bless you, dear!”
And I felt such a precious tear
Fall on my withered cheek,
And darn it, I couldn’t speak.
And so she went sadly away,
And I know that my eyes were wet.
Ah, not to my dying day
Will I forget, forget!
Can you wonder now I am gay?
God bless her, that little Fleurette!

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