Portrait and Background (extract)

James Walker

Tobruk way were the graves. Not many,
As numbers go, as casualties in war,
Though in the isolating moon they seemed
Milestones over the world, and in the sunlight
Their identities oppressed, as all things did
In that meticulous vivisecting light.
Most were anonymous, the scattered ones,
With stones heaped over them to keep their bones
Longer, a little, from jackals and the raven.
'Ein unbekannter englischer Soldat'
Held a wild place where there were flowers and larks.
But that was gracious. Most were 'Unbekannt',
'Incognito', 'Unknown'. These haunted most.
For these were us. This was the end we came to,
Whether our bones were underground or not.
Love's individuality became
'Ein unbekannter englischer Soldat'.
So we despised our bodies, whose too-tired flesh
No longer brought us in its old delights.
And sometimes in the dark, running for shelter,
We stumbled over them, and cursed these dead
Equally with the living, lying still.
James Walker