The Great War

from War, The Liberator and Other Pieces, an electronic edition

The Dead Men

IT was yesterday I heard again

The dead man talk with living men,

And watched the thread of converse go

Among the speakers to and fro,

Woven with merriment and wit

And beauty to embroider it;

And in the middle now and then,

The laughter clear of happy men--

Only to me a chamel scent

Drifted across the argument,

Only to me his fair young head

Was lifeless and untenanted,

And in his quiet even tones,

I heard the sound of naked bones,

And in his empty eyes could see

The man who talked was dead, like me.

Then in the conversation's swim,

I leaned across and spoke to him,

And in his dim and dreary eyes

Read suddenly a strange surprise,

And in the touch of his dank hand,

Knew that he too could understand;

So we two talked, and as we heard

Our friends' applause of each dull word

We felt the slow and mournful winds

Blow through the corpse house of our minds,

And the cool dark of underground.

And all the while they sat around

Weighing each listless thing we said,

And did not know that we were dead.