Note: This whole poem is based around Wilfred Owen's Dulce et Decorum est, so some of the lines are not mine. I've also used Mental Cases.
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, cursing as we trudged our way through the dirt. It was silent complete and utter silence. It was peaceful chaos. We’ve been dragging down this path for two days, since the sergeant passed from a bullet to the head. The doors ended up being closed on us, as we drag our lifeless souls to our home. Deep down we all knew there was no home… Not for us at least.
Clickety-Click. Partially familiar faces desperately look to each other for help. A grenade? Soldiers? The forces? Have they come ba-
“Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! –“ A voice howled from the other end.
I was quick enough to fumble my helmet on, in time… The poor simple soldier boy stumbled backwards and forwards hopelessly. As the gas took over him, his icy eyes glared at me. At the time he seemed to want me to share the same fate. His eyes poured out agony, but a hint of happiness and hope. Hope that one day his country will remember his name. How could his country remember his name when not even I know his name? That Pope girl wrote those words, “Who’s for the Game?”, while she sat on her ass at home. If she chants these torments, even though she goes home and prays she’ll never know.
He wanted safety. He wanted my safety. One I could not secure. He staggers inches away guttering, choking, drowning.
“Wilfred” He calls me.
“Wilfred” He torments me.
“Wilfred” He begs me.
“Wilfred” My vision was clear and I realised it was just Nurse Patsy, waking me from another nightmare, “are you okay?”
“Yes I’m fabulous, fantastic actually.” The sarcasm became quite evident at this point. I truly did feel apologetic for Nurse Patsy. Women were never really people I’d gotten along with, especially after the war. What can I say, I am one of those mental cases, who witnessed multitudinous murders, whose lungs once loved laughter.
“That’s good to hear…” She was clearly hurt, but she managed to keep up that teethy smile of hers, “I hope you have this attitude more frequently, so we can have pleasant evening walks, which we have to go to right now.”
I follow her without uttering another word. Words. What would I do without it? I love them. In fact, I’ve started writing poems whenever I have my meetups with Mr Sassoon. I have to admit it’s the only time I can express myself with losing my temper. Sassoon had involuntarily joined war as well, and we’re able to talk about all the joyful moments that came with it. Our minds are corrupt with blood smeared, helpless images of the lifeless, dying soldiers.
As we walk through the hospital hallways, I ponder why all hospitals are white? I feel as though white represents hollowness, depression…. Death. To add to that the scent, even more terrifying. I can’t bare it. Maybe that’s why I enjoy my evening walks so much.
When we step outside the fresh breeze seemed to embrace my body. I felt in control. I didn’t feel like the man constantly awakening from trauma.
The leaves seemed different today… Orange, almost red. The thought of red sends shivers down my spine. Autumn is by far my least favourite season. Why? It’s the last season for the leaves. Last minutes of their life they sway, as the gas pushes them down.
“Aren’t these trees just colourful?” Nurse Patsy interrupts my thoughts.
“Well they come in different shades of orange, yellow, re-“ she glances at me sideways, “it’s just beautiful.”
“I wish I could agree with you,” with that we continue walking down what seemed like a painfully happy day.
I look around only noticing women and children walking here and there. Jealousy seems to stab me in the back, as I throw disgusted looks everywhere. How could they carry one when a family member if fighting their asses out in hell.
These streets were once filled with laughter and liveliness... and boys... Boys who’d once grinned at life in empty joy. Now, these women wander these lifeless, barren streets.
“Would you like to have a seat Mr Owens?” Patsy directs me to a bench. Not long after I’ve sat down, and slowly rest my eyelids… the ground below me shakes. An earthquake? An Attack? An Attack? AN ATTACK! My eyes snap open.
The scarring scenes engulf me with a warm welcome. The smell of the dead hits me like a tsunami. I scurry under the closest tree, to find blood dripping on to my forehead. I snap my head up to find him guttering, choking, drowning. I’m deprived of my hearing when an ear piercing scream fill the atmosphere.
“Owens” The voice is drowned out by the screaming. I sit there, my knees pulled to my chest my head tucked between them as I shut my ears.
It was not until later when I realised it was me shrieking. It was not until later when the irritated faces of the women stare at me.
“Mr Owen!” Nurse Patsy screams. My muscles relax as I gather myself up. I stand up, and observe my surroundings. Women were staring from everywhere. Mothers hiding they’re children behind them, some using them as a shield.
A mother walked up Nurse Patsy, “He should know how to behave in public, and if he doesn’t he deserves to be locked up in that hospital room of his. Why do you accommodate people like him? They can’t even fight for this country without coming back with ‘injuries’. Stop acting weak and get back on that war field” She says with a smirk, waiting for a heap of people to applaud… but no one does. Right in the moment, the anger I felt was indescribable. I could tell it wasn’t just me who was aggravated by her comment.
“I served my country up to my heart’s content, and I didn’t come back as the coward who ran away, as I’d imagine you would,” She scoffs at my response, but I wasn’t finished, “If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace behind a wagon that we flung him in, and watch the white eyes writhing in his face. His face hanging, like the devil’s sick of sin. If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood come gargling from his froth-corrupted lungs. Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues. My friend, you would not tell with such high zest to children ardent for some desperate glory, the old lie: Dulce et Decorum est Pro patria mori.”