When Joffre and Haig with Wilson danced…

("Running of the Sheep" into August)

the river
where once a year
self-indulgence knows no fear
It need not be the Somme
or Marne
any river will do no harm
Play the music
sing the songs
so loud no one notices
even the words
are all wrong.

Endowed, embraced
with colours festive
chaotic (Vitus) dances
silent invective
No notice taken
of the uniform
as they all inhale
their chlorophorm

Ask every youthful
smiling cheek
if they tomorrow
death would reek
if they beneath
their standard daze
washed in oceans
of narcotic haze,
while all that before them sang
apologised while the church bells rang
and seized the second
in class and space
forgetting too the human race.

Dr T.P. Wilkinson writes, teaches History and English, directs theatre and coaches cricket between the cradles of Heine and Saramago. He is also the author of Church Clothes, Land, Mission and the End of Apartheid in South Africa. Read other articles by T.P..