Country Doctor

When duty called

Me from my home, my work, where tranquil skies

And smiling hills gave benediction-peace,

I wore rebellion's mantle on my soul.

Why should I thus uproot my feet from loam

That knew my easy tread, and go afar

To heed the cries of those already doomed?

How I am here

Where I, myself, behold the face of War

And feel his cruel arms, and breathe the air

Made foul by his hot breath; here, where I lead

Your sons through strange dark corridors of pain,

And prune their shattered limbs, and ease their shock.

While some but mutter curses, others weep

Like homesick children that they are. Last night

A lad so like my own was brought to me--

So young and fair and suffering, that I prayed

Thad God would grant me healing. Then I knew

He would not live the night. I saw his soul

Naked and bleeding: in its primal need

Craving the chrism of a mother's kiss.

A hardened country doctor! Yet the tears

Rivered my calloused cheeks. I held him close.

As his eyes dimmed, I kissed his ashen brow.

He murmured, "Mom", and passed death's portals

To find, at last, the Holy Grail of Peace.

Now as I stand

In this vast auditorium of death,

War's grim face softened by the lamps of night,

I cast aside the mantle I have worn,

And place about my new-awakened soul

The robe of thankfulness that I can give

My holy gifts--the frankincense and myrrh

Of deep compassion, understanding love--

Illume the way to life, or death, for these

Our valiant sons whose birthright has been sold.

The American Bard