a poem by Steven Peter Cooke, UK

Fumbling through a sheen of yellow
the land and sky merge as one,
and earthly song goes silent.
The stage is set for death to breed,
tendered by phantoms, catching the unwary,
these purveyors of men’s souls

The rats were the first warning,
blind panic the second.
The sting on the eye brought the fear,
the search for the mask the doubt.
was it by my side or did it fall,
Into the mud or by my gun.
Focus, Focus.

Shaking hands, remember the clip,
the burn in the eyes is it too late.
The feel of rubber sticking to my face,
breathe slowly searching for the cough
heart ready to explode, relief the smell of air.

Then silence replaced by the gurgle.
The gurgle of dying men walking blindly
grasping for air, but the air has gone.
Replaced by the yellow that kills
that yellow which delights in a slow kill,
that torments the sanity
of the view behind the mask.

To watch a man die in corrupted lungs,
to see his sweet words of life,
replaced by a froth that no one should see.
The mercy of god is elsewhere this day,
as the eyes blister,
and the light is dowsed from his existence.

Yet still the burning pain remains gathering its strength,
rushing through the brain.
No lasting thoughts of home,
only pain, manufactured by Adam
the gurgle, the last words of a dying man

And I who have survived will witness this,
every day of my life,
and people will say “there goes a hero”
a soldier of the Great War.
And I will accept their drinks and cigarettes,
and for a moment I will forget
The yellow that killed my friends,
but the yellow will return

The yellow that will always follows me,
hoping for a helping hand,
a rope, a pill, or a shot,
the choice is yours.
As long as you make the roll call right

But the yellow can never take
the memories,
that my comrades gave to me.
For they are immortal
and my comrades will always watch over me,
As I will of them.

And the yellow now fades from memory.
The ghosts will walk no more
for the ranks are full
the last Tommy has passed away.
The trenches are gone,
and the poppies are histories reminder
Of what has passed this way

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