John-Ward Leighton

CONVERSATIONS WITH THE DEAD

I wonder who you talk to
when the majority of the people
you ever knew are dead.
They seem to be trying to lure
me into their ranks
but I still have things to do
so no thanks.

My sound track resounds with the music
of those who have passed
their lives and faces rapidly
receding in my rear view mirror.
The boys went over the top at Vimy
ninety years ago
in jerky little film clips.
Ninety years ago
and now all the survivors are gone
save two.
They sit quietly
their voices barely a whisper
waiting.
We are at war again
still more young lives cut short.
Tearfully the pipes play the lament
In memory of Cpl. Kevin Megeney (above), a Canadian soldier from Stellarton, Nova Scotia killed in Kandahar accident, March 6, 2007. 45 Canadians have been killed in Afghanistan since 2002

Photo ©Copyright 2007 by John-Ward Leighton
Photo ©Copyright 2007 by John-Ward Leighton
as eight men and women
tried and true
put the body on the plane home.

At home there is barely a ripple
as people talk on their cell phones
and rush off to their jobs
expensive coffees in their free hands.
In a whisper the official condolences
and the mourning is left to the family,
friends and comrades of the dead.

How do you say thank you
for the gift of a life?
How do you fill the gap,
the empty place at our table of life?

We pay a heavy price for our symbols
with bronze statues
and tall stone monuments
and one day of Remembrance.
There are so many faces
our memories blur.

What did Vimy really mean?
What did that epic of blood and valour mean?
Canadians with a good plan
lead by Canadians
would play a winning hand
in the war to end all wars
and no longer be mere sinew and bone
for other’s battles.

We have steered our own ship since then
a valued ally and honest broker.
Now in the twilight of my life
I talk with the members of my Father’s generation
as they are joined by the dead from Afghanistan.

I have served in my bullet-proof youth
and understand that
we didn’t serve for Queen and country
but for our comrades.
I understand the pallbearers’ tears
and the piper’s sad lament
as they load that that
pale shadow of a life
on the aircraft home.
Sadly, fresh faces and voices
for my
conversations with the dead.