MARCHESE: A poem for our soldiers, returning from war 

I wrote this one morning in November 2009 at a time when Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan was in its eighth year. 

As I was walking along Devonshire Place near Varsity Stadium, I saw a group of young soldiers being put through their paces by a senior officer as they prepared for Remembrance Day ceremonies.

Prince Charles and Camilla were visiting Canada at the time and were planning to attend Remembrance Day ceremonies.

I began to think about Canada’s soldiers in Afghanistan returning to post-war civilian life and how they would adjust, trying to make a new life for themselves after what they had seen and experienced in war.

This is what I wrote:

Looking out upon the dark, dank day

His friends await him at a meeting house,

Yet there he stands at the window of his room

Weighed down, engulfed in a perilous gloom.

And there, beyond the confines of his life

As a band plays jolly-on with drum and fife,

Legions of stalwart young assemble in green

Awaiting Bonnie Prince Charles and Camilla, his Queen.

For this is not an ordinary November day

As the band makes music and mothers pray

For those young lads in far-off lands

How goes the campaign today, in Afghanistan?

Front and centre positions the Colour Guard

In Varsity Stadium, now a military yard

With bayonets fixed in covered, gloved-shields

No trench warfare here, just remembered dreams;

Of conflicts past and those laid to rest

Who fought the good fight, as we lost our best.

There he stands at the window of his room

And wonders why he is so engulfed in gloom,

For he can think of nothing, nothing but his own plight

As the day that weighs upon him proceeds into night.

And there beyond the confines of his life

The band plays on with drum and fife

While legions of stalwart young assemble in green

Bonnie Prince Charles and his lady, now seen.

Oh, courage, could you not as well

In this lonely heart by the window dwell?

Bring him redemption, while he’s still young and strong

Displace from his heart the despair he’s borne, alone, for so long.

For this is not an ordinary November day

When the band makes music and mothers pray

Not just for those in a far-off land

But for the souls back home who were dealt a cruel hand.

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— Frank J. Marchese, PhD, teaches psychology at York University and has published four books of poetry, most recently, Pandemic Poems and Other Musings, available on Amazon.

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