Agog with corrosive dates in his book,
Godspeed shuttled between bush and school,
branching with delirium. He recalled
rain gauzed cannons with steam. Escutcheons
fluttered a red-letter day of sorrow:
Every man who went from Jamaica to
the front was a volunteer.10,000.
Volunteer? Bourrage de crâne. Shadowed chains.
Sails, the air stagnate, white flashes of sharks
haunting fevers strangers shared in the hulls,
never to break after centuries on land;
perpetual flashes, perpetual sharks
trailing men who sang on the Verdala
in a blizzard to war.
They shovelled the long trenches day and night.
Frostbitten mud. Shellshock mud. Dungheap mud. Imperial mud.
Venereal mud. Malaria mud. Hun bait mud. Mating mud.
1655 mud: white flashes of sharks. Golgotha mud. Chilblain mud.
Caliban mud. Cannibal mud. Ha ha ha mud. Amnesia mud.
Drapetomania mud. Lice mud. Pyrexia mud. Exposure mud.
No-man’s-land’s-Everyman’s mud. And the smoking flax mud.
Dysentery mud. Septic sore mud. Hogpen mud. Nephritis mud.
Constipated mud. Faith mud. Sandfly fever mud. Rat mud.
Sheol mud. Ir-ha-cheres mud. Ague mud. Asquith mud. Parade
Scabies mud. Mumps mud. Memra mud. Pneumonia mud.
Mene mene tekel upharsin mud. Civil war mud.
And darkness and worms will be their dwelling place mud.
Yaws mud. Gog mud. Magog mud. God mud.
Canaan the unseen, as promised, saw mud.
They resurrected new counterkingdoms,
by the arbitrament of the sword mud.
sugar; rum; cocoa; coffee; rice; logwood; bauxite;
oranges; lime juice (for prevention of scurvy);
mahogany propellers and 9 aeroplanes;
11 ambulances; cotton (for balloons)
drawn into the affray cousins make,
mortared to haul martyrs from mud trenches,
then the sand trenches, where the anonymous
sprung up a permanent humility.
ice-scarred, above deck,
back to Old Britain.