Monday, October 6, 2008

We Drove All Night

No Man's Land (written and sung by Eric Bogle)

We (my cousin the dancer, my girlfriend and I), arrived at the rez in time to have breakfast with the family of the young man who was killed. Tomorrow we go down to Sky Harbor to receive the body.

As is often the case with the families of young people killed in war, they have asked that this time be private. Of course, this will be respected. I asked if they would mind my writing about my own impressions of the next few days and they said "Please, feel free."

The girlfriend is busy catching up with her son who lives here. My cousins are busy catching up with each other. I am heartsick and forlorn. Here's my datebook for the rest of the day.

My ass has an appointment with a saddled horse.
My eyes have an appointment with the mountain woods.
My head has an appointment with the silence of those woods.
My soul has an appointment with the most gifted healer I know.

Mas tardes.

Well, how'd you do, Private Willie McBride,
D'ye mind if I sit down down here by your graveside?
I'll rest for awhile in the warm summer sun,
Been walking all day, Lord, and I'm nearly done.
I see by your gravestone you were only nineteen
When you joined the glorious fallen in 1916,
I hope you died quick and I hope you died "clean,"
Or, Willie McBride, was it slow and obscene?

Did they beat the drum slowly, did they sound the fife lowly?
Did the rifles fire o'er ye as they lowered ye down?
Did the bugles sing "The Last Post" in chorus?
Did the pipes play the "Floors O'The Forest"?

And did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind
In some faithful heart is your memory enshrined?
And, though you died back in 1916,
To that loyal heart are you forever nineteen?
Or are you a stranger, without even a name,
Forever enshrined behind some glass pane,
In an old photograph, torn and tattered and stained,
And fading to yellow in a brown leather frame?


Well, the sun's shining down on these green fields of France;
The warm wind blows gently, the red poppies dance.
The trenches have vanished long under the plow;
No gas and no barbed wire, no guns firing now.
But here in this graveyard it's still No Man's Land;
The countless white crosses in mute witness stand
To man's blind indifference to his fellow man.
And a whole generation who were butchered and damned.


And I can't help but wonder now, Willie McBride,
Do all those who lie here know why they died?
Did you really believe them when they told you "the cause?"
Did you really believe that this war would end wars?
Well the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame,
The killing, the dying, it was all done in vain,
For Willie McBride, it's all happened again,
And again, and again, and again, and again.

repeat CHORUS and fade out. . .