August 7, 2013

The Last Brave Cry

There are a lot of tragic war ballads about heroic sacrifices. This is another one. But something about the way I was thinking about said heroic sacrifice necessitated it becoming a poem.

                                                                                                    

Outnumbered they stood and surrounded they fell
As the blades mixed with screams in an onslaught from hell
The grass painted red with the color of death
The gentle breeze carrying each dying breath

He thinks of the wife that he left back at home
And the feel of her body embraced by his own
And the lilt of her voice and the depth of her eyes
And with this he looks up to the sorrowful skies

His cry echoes brave in the valley around
To the dying who lie on the death-ridden ground
Though fading, they smile at the strength of his will
And if you listen close his cry echoes there still

“This… this is where I stand
This… this is where I die
But this, this is not your land
So look me in the eyes
When the last blade falls broken
When the last arrow flies
Then you can take it from us
But until that day arrives
Damn your bloody killing
And damn your bloody lies!”

He rushes the ranks with a sword in each hand
The blades cut their path through the men that still stand
Their flesh splits from flesh and their bone splits from bone
As the last brave man living does battle alone

His charge cannot take every foe that remains
But many are wounded and many are slain
At last an opponent strikes fierce from the back
The strike is enough to cut off his attack

The knife plunges deep and life runs from his veins
His eyes see beyond the bright mountains and plains
Then he wishes his wife could just look on him now
He has grit in his smile and blood on his brow

His cold lips still form a soft, peaceful young smile
For as he was dying he thought back a while
To when he and his brothers wished they would die well
And though he’s alone, he hears them ring his knell

His blood, which once burned for the true and the free
Runs cold in the grass that’s been cooled by the breeze
The last breath he breathes the wind blows tow’rd the north
And he’s sung to his sleep by the riv’r rushing forth
In the distance

The foes are too few when the fighting is done
Though the good men lie slaughtered, the battle is won
Those men living yet are not worthy to stand
On that blood-bought and blood-soaked and beautiful land

August 4, 2013

Constellations of Faces

My friends and I used to lie on the grass in the middle of the night and name the stars after people. We’re teenage boys, so most of the stars ended up being girls, but that’s beside the point. It’s been a while since those nights, but recently the idea of naming the stars came back to me. It came back to me in the midst of graduation parties and conversations about colleges and the realization that many of my friends are moving on. Almost all of them are older than me, so I’m kind of left behind with two more years of high school to finish.

Anyway, back to the stars. I like the idea of all those stars being named after people I know. Because no matter where you are, no matter how lonely you are, the same stars will be shining down on you, like memories burning an infinity away. You’ll meet new people and it’s likely you’ll forget about others, but either way you’ll all be jumbled together in those constellations of faces, living and smiling and crying in some kind of galactic dance.

Think of a sailor out on the open sea. The night is reflected on the waters; he’s sailing on stars. But this sailor is lost. He doesn't know how to get home. He can see all the faces waiting for him there. Maybe they can even guide him back. But either way, they are there. That’s the only thing that matters. They are there. He can always look up to the sky and see a swirl of forgotten days shining down on him.

Imagine that your life is just one night, one night with all those stars. The morning will come sooner than you think. The sun will rise, the sky will turn light, and everything in that twinkling canopy of night will fade away. This might be your only chance.

Your only chance to do what? I don’t know. But I hope you will know it when you come across it. And when you do, jump out and take hold of it and don’t let go. It might seem awkward, it might seem impossible, but it will be worth it in the end. When the sun comes up, you’ll be glad you jumped.

I don’t really know what I’m trying to get at, and I didn't write this post with the intention of presenting some kind of motivational, blatantly allegorical “live-your-life-to-the-fullest” mantra, but I think it’s something like this: pretend like all you've got is that one night. This is your only chance to name new stars. This is your only chance to remember old ones. Just stop messing around and go for it. No matter what happens, the sun will still arrive on time.