Skip to main content

poetry A New Kind of Anthem

On Veterans Day, we honor Gerald Sloan’s poem, commissioned by a local symphony to be recited at a choral performance of Wilfred Owen's famous sonnet (see below).

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

If you like this article, please sign up for Snapshot, Portside's daily summary.

(One summary e-mail a day, you can change anytime, and Portside is always free.)

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

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.