War Requiem

Two months gone and the students gone –

Douglas, I only repeat what you were saying,

Or was it combatants? As Britten, a la Owen, would contest,

A baritone and a tenor locked in mortal combat,

Connecting for The Next War, the war to come.


And I will stand locked in a thousand-mile gaze,

Pen poised as Hemingway raises yet another toast,

The reporter and the reported, but who

Really is the reporter anymore?


Keith after his father, a captain himself,

Douglas to those who pore over his lines of text,

Intertextuality, they claim, and fawn

Over his poetic genius, his complete and utter



Rendering war “honestly,” they say,

“Directly,” and yet, I surmise,

Reeling slightly away from my keyboard,

Can someone with eyes so jaundiced

Be considered a reporter at all?


Keith Douglas was killed by German shrapnel

So small, so infinitesimal, that he appeared not even to be


On that fateful Norman day. Adorning his memories

With McCrae’s poppies, scholars sing the praises of his

“Reportage,” and yet, and yet,


Through the warped glass of an aged window,

Its surface bubbled and stained from

Streaks of summer sunshine, so

Does Douglas’ work distort the truth.


A long-dead soldier-poet showed me that day

That despite what the scholars might postulate,

Squinting down a pince-nez and smelling –

No, reeking – of intelligence,

No matter how the tide of the world roils against

A single man, alone he can and will stand.

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