A Thousand Armies


And the hapless Soldier’s sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls
— William Blake

A thousand armies sat on a wall and
everyone of them was dead

eating sandwiches out of little tin boxes
yellow broken teeth and considerable chewing

But their eyes were not that interested in seeing
their eyes didn’t follow anything moving in front of them
or look as they pulled the waxed paper away from their bread
or broke open their bottles of water or sat with their friends

There was a constant murmuring like a stomach churning its juices
a constant scratching like animals caught between walls

They sat on a wall overlooking an orchard and
each one of them was dead

But they watched the seasons come to life on the
vine in the vineyards and down the long
crop rows though their eyes barely took it in
and when the crops were harvested and the
snows came they barely blinked they barely noticed

Thousands of armies dangling their legs bootless in heaven
eating sandwiches out of little silver boxes
their eyes transformed from burning buildings and people
running into the streets to
green fields full of lions and lambs and other wingéd animals
lying together

though their eyes were always elsewhere

and their hearts were as round as the world

3/23/2003 (from Psalms for the Brokenhearted)

Categories: Poems