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De Civitate Hominum

The morning sky glitters
Winter blue.
The earth is snow-white,
With the gleam snow-white answers to sunlight,
Save where shell-holes are new,
Black spots in the whiteness—

A Matisse ensemble.

The shadows of whitened tree stumps
Are another white.

And there are white bones.

Zillebeke Lake and Hooge,
Ice gray, gleam differently,

Like the silver shoes of the model.

The model is our world,
Our bitch of a world.
Those who live between wars may not know
But we who die between peaces
Whether we die or not.

It is very cold
And, what with my sensations
And my spick and span subaltern’s uniform,
I might be the famous brass monkey,
The nature morte accessory.

Morte…!
‘Tis still life that lives,
Not quick life—
There are fleece-white flowers of death
That unfold themselves prettily
About an airman

Who, high over Gheluvelt,
Is taking a morning look around,
All silk and silver
Up in the blue.

I hear the drone of an engine
And soft pounding puffs in the air
As the fleece-white flowers unfold.

I cannot tell which flower he has accepted
But suddenly there is a tremor,
A zigzag of lines against the blue
And he streams down
Into the white,
A delicate flame,
A stroke of orange in the morning’s dress.

My sergeant says, very low, “Holy God!
‘Tis a fearful death.”

Holy God makes no reply
Yet.

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