The whistle blew and, veiled in a dense cloud of smoke, the train pulled out on its long journey to the battlefields
A face caught my eye, the face of a young man barely out of adolescence,
His thin, pale face shadowed by the sombre khaki of his feather-trimmed hat
His eyes dark, looking not outward at the summer sunshine, but toward the deep chasm of the unknown
It was not a time for laughter and gaiety – the news was trickling through
Brought by letters to loved ones
Trumpeted in newspaper articles
And made real by the slowly growing tide of human debris spat out of the uncaring,
omnivorous jaws of war
What were these boys going to? What dark thoughts enveloped them as they went
willingly to defend a home, a country, a way of life?
Would it be worth the speeches, the toasts, the proud bearings of family and friends,
the shy glances of young girls seeing only the dashing uniform, and nothing of the
frightened soul beneath
Would the flame of patriotism burn brighter in the trenches, or would it be quenched,
maybe forever, by the flash of maxim and mortar………….
Just for a moment our eyes met, and for an instant we looked into each other’s soul –
the carefree civilian and the young soldier
And as I turned for home, fighting my own battle against the public spirit of
patriotism, I wondered,
What would my thoughts and feelings be
If that soldier was me?