Side By Side

by Aug 12, 2006Poetry

What about side by side with a friend?
Aye, I could do that.

What more can I say
of the one thing yet unknown
to me? This time
I think he’ll win.
And here I am
side by side with you
and if it is to be
as someday it must
then surely there are
worse ways to die.
Better than to wither
away with cold age
in a shivering bed
crumbling and blurred
or to succumb to the fury
of ravaging disease
that seeks to level
all vestiges of character
with the relentless shafts
of pain and madness
or to fall into the pits
of senseless accident
or folly. Aye, if Death
must come, and so it must,
to all who be mortal
and some who are not
then there are worse ways
than to fall fighting
side by side with a friend
I can do that.

True, I’ll never know
the joys of wife and fireside
of watching the bairns
roll and laugh on the hearth
while the bread bakes sweetly
and the rain falls unheeded
on the golden thatch
and the panes of round windows;
such is not for the likes of me.
But, so be it. I laugh
at the face Death shows me now;
warrior that I am, thinks he
that he can stare me down?
Let him do his worst!
I spit at him.
I bite my thumb. I sneer!
Which is not to say
I face him without fear
and mortal trepidation
not merely of the spear
that skewers me through
or the axe that hews
the flesh off my bones
like the bark from a tree
or the fire that may roast me
as a pheasant on a spit;
but also of the unknown
that already looms above
as a purple shapeless cloud
with all blackness behind.

I’ll not lie and say
I face these things without
a qualm, without regret
without a secret wish
to plead for more time.
I say only that there be
worse ways, if one must die
than this, knowing
the fate of the entire world
lies in my keeping, as a golden
lock of hair, and I
have been chosen to stand
side by side with friends.
I was born for this. I wish
only that I might know
what is to come after, and
if I shall revel in the prospect
of endless peace and light
or if I shall secretly long
for the savor of smoke and blood
that I have known here.
But I should not wonder;
I should only rejoice
in the knowledge
that if I must die
then I will fall side by side
with companions who have moved in
their arms and hearts linked
irrevocably with mine.
Very well, I shall rejoice
if I must.
This I can do!

So…what are we waiting for?

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Found in Home 5 Reading Room 5 Poetry 5 Side By Side

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