poetry A New Kind of Anthem
By Gerry Sloan
(after Wilfred Owen’s
“Anthem for Doomed Youth”)
Not all anthems are equal.
Some are meant for the brain
while others take aim at the heart,
and some are too elusive
to be rendered into art.
Hovering above the threshold
of hearing, they leave only
questions we dare not ask,
plus the image of a hand at dusk
drawing shutters on the snuffed
torch of another sunset, someone
listening in vain for footsteps
that would never return.
No mother ever bore a son
to go missing for this reason;
no father ever born was meant
to ignore the 6th Commandment.
A century later we have different
doorways to doom, strange clouds
that bloom in the shape of mushrooms
at the push of a button, war whose victims
will wear no uniform now that generals
and gunpowder are rendered obsolete,
with climate change waiting in the offing.
We lift our voices today because we can,
because we live in a culture that still
permits it, not to deny our fearful potential
but rather to reaffirm our humanity
through the gifts of music and poetry,
lifting our spirits to a higher plane
so that hope can be reborn,
so that Wilfred Owen
will not have died in vain.
Gerry Sloan is a retired music professor living in Fayetteville, Arkansas. His collections are Paper Lanterns (Half Acre Press, 2011) and Crossings: A Memoir in Verse (Rollston Press, 2017), both available on Amazon, plus five chapbooks, including one in Mandarin. Recent work appears in Slant, Nebo, Cantos, Xavier Review, Arkansas Review, Cave Region Review (featured poet), and Elder Mountain (featured poet). He can be reached at email@example.com.
Anthem for Doomed Youth
By Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)
What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.