His Last Parade

Not a flag was unfurled,
and no cornet trilled,
as the rain-swollen clouds,
the bleak valley filled.

The wind blowing cold
with a chill that pervades
as the caisson’s old wheels
creaked through the glades

where leafless Live Oaks
their limbs upward bent
as if to acknowledge
the young soldier’s lament.

A tousled lone drummer
in tattered old grays
led a dog and three mourners
to the dead soldier’s grave.

The muffled rataplan
of his red and tan drum
was beating forlornly
rum-dum d’ dum-dum.

And along the bare hillock’s
long, rough-rutted track
both mule and cart
were carrying him back

to the land that he left
to fight a grim war
tho’ he ne’er understood
what the fighting was for.

Then one fateful day
in a field of smoke
a fusillade violently
tore through his cloak.

His battle had ended
as he fell to the ground
his lips mouthing something
but ne’er uttered a sound.

Now his casket was lowered
in an uncaring grave
as the sad words were read
his poor soul to save

whilst a single red flower
was forlornly tossed
upon the young warrior’s
funereal box.

Unseen by the mourners
but a color guard stood
a bugler and flagger
peered down through the woods.

Then high from that ridge
at the hillside’s top
the bugler rang taps
and all motion had stopped.

Each eye in confusion
turned looking around
in search of the source
of that sad, mournful sound.

Though ne’er to be seen
the bugler still played
the elegy that resounded
down through the glade.

Then just for a moment
the sun had now shone
as if angels descended
to take him back home.

The mourners and drummer
filed out of the glade
except for the old dog
that steadfastly remained.

The requiem was over;
all farewells had been bade
that gave honor and glory
to his last parade.

John Henry Gardner

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