The blossoms on the apple trees are beautiful at night,
Caught by an errant moonbeam they reflect a warming light.
The fireflies are dancing and the crickets serenade,
As if to offer praises to this peaceful forest glade.
The grass is lush and em'rald with the lightest kiss of dew,
Fulfilling springtime's promise of rebirth and life anew.
The susurrus of water over rocks at brookside's edge,
Is muffled as it passes out of sight beyond a hedge.
And I beneath an age-old oak am silent and reflect,
On whether she can ever know how deeply I respect,
That she could never love a man who answered Ares' call,
Who for his love of country and of freedom gave up all.
Fires of youth flowed in my veins, so molten hot and strong,
The tides went out and sundered us and carried me along,
To distant lands and nameless shores and all the many things,
Of which the epic poets write and somber minstrels sing.
In mud I found scant glory as the fever wracked my frame,
In trenches soaked and hungry I damned near forgot my name.
The terror in my bowels as I cringed there in the slime,
Put paid to all those mummers' words in very little time.
Brave Stanley got his honors and a pinned up jacket sleeve,
And Cedric got two medals and a widow wife to grieve,
I heard they gave a Silver Star to my old schoolmate Gus,
Don't think it meant a lot to him since it was posthumous.
And time wends on and conflicts fade into the lull of peace,
For every soldier comes a time the fighting has to cease.
And so beneath this stately oak is where I pass my days,
In quiet contemplation of Fate's very fickle ways.
I left to garner glory and to fight the noble cause,
Forsaking she who loved me in an eyeblink without pause.
And while away, she met a man of stable means and mind,
Who loves her well and truly, who is generous and kind.
I hear she's truly happy now with wee ones at her knee,
With Sunday picnics in the park and summers at the sea.
A fine old home with books and song and true tranquility,
All the things she dreamed of once excepting maybe me.
I wonder if she thinks of me, at times gives me a thought,
To thank me for the comfort and the freedom that I bought,
And gave to her through service and the sacrifice of life,
So she could be contented and another fellow's wife.
I wonder if her sons will ever struggle with my choice,
To sit in moot acceptance or cry out with patriot voice.
Will she bid them sad farewell and think them strong and brave?
And will she, some day, come and place some flowers on my grave?
This poem is offered in tribute from one who stood the walls to those who stand them now. No sacrifice is too great to ensure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.