DULCE ET DECORUM EST
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent(14) for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.
8 October 1917 – March, 1918
Break of Day in the Trenches
The darkness crumbles away
It is the same old druid Time as ever,
Only a live thing leaps my hand,
A queer sardonic rat,
As I pull the parapet’s poppy
To stick behind my ear.
Droll rat, they would shoot you if they knew
Your cosmopolitan sympathies,
Now you have touched this English hand
You will do the same to a German
Soon, no doubt, if it be your pleasure
To cross the sleeping green between.
It seems you inwardly grin as you pass
Strong eyes, fine limbs, haughty athletes,
Less chanced than you for life,
Bonds to the whims of murder,
Sprawled in the bowels of the earth,
The torn fields of France.
What do you see in our eyes
At the shrieking iron and flame
Hurled through still heavens?
What quaver -what heart aghast?
Poppies whose roots are in men’s veins
Drop, and are ever dropping;
But mine in my ear is safe,
Just a little white with the dust.Isaac Rosenberg
It was a warm autumn eve as the sun slowly set. Although cloudless and calm, it was still not dark enough to see the twinkling stars. Ensconced in his chair by the window, he stared. He stared at the blank screen, and stared. If only this was a Stairmaster he would be in better shape.
“I have nothing, there’s nothing. I’m stuck – stuck – stuck.”
“It happens, you’ll get through it” quipped Red as she plunked down on the couch. “I’m having some friends come over later tonight, I hope it doesn’t bother you.”
“It’s not like they’re going to interrupt my writing? Is it?”, as he bit down on the cigarette holder. “As long as it’s not that imbecilic pirate.”
“No it’s my reading group. I don’t believe he is the type interested in 20th century literature.” Red said as she un-plunked herself and proceeded straightening the room.
“And which book is it?”, he asked still staring at the screen, incompetently pretending interest.
“The Stranger, by Albert Camus,” Red replied while setting out the dishes and inspecting the wine glasses for bits of lint and water spots.
“Ah, 20th century pretentious existential angst.”
Red coyly looked towards him saying, “Feel free to join us, if you wish.”
“I will continue my solitary Sisyphean task; if I need an interruption, I will join your absurd parlay regarding the termination of an Algerian on the sands of the Mediterranean.”, eyes still fixed on the screen.
“Spoiler alert! Now you’ve ruined it by giving away the ending.”, Red quipped sardonically.
“Well then, I guess you should call them and tell them to forget it.”
“I might consider that if they weren’t already here” gleefully saying that she processed towards the door just before the knocking.
‘Suddenly-all hell broke loose!’ he typed onto the screen.
His mind was fogged, nebulous as the mist of a spring morn, waiting for the caffeine sun to burn it off; but this wasn’t morning but a late evening following a sumptuous repast and surplus of wine – re-reading a binding contract he did not recall, while attempting to nosh a dessert that fragmented his consciousness with its overpowering pleasure he could only describe as a mouth orgasms. While pursuing. bits of creamy drool dropped over the document.
“You, wouldn’t have that, that problem if you didn’t eat with that stupid cigarette holder in your mouth.” quipped Red.
“It’s my style.” he drolly stated
Protestations from the cat indicated a desire to exit the premisses.
Red, “I’m going to let the cat out.”
“Yes, yes, I see that in the contract here, and here, and here! I do believe that was not what I was thinking of when I stated that ‘you should put the pussy out at night.’ In fact, as I recall, I don’t own a cat, or more precisely – no cat owns me.”
“It was open to interpretation.”
Hands gripped the steering wheel. The narrow mountain road was slippery in the winter mist. These tight curves and undulations were more dangerous than that blonde from the 2 weeks prior. She was a slippery one too; more slippery than he cared to remember. At first he thought Mike was a diminutive for Michelle, little did he know. Mike also made him crash and burn. He shuddered to think of it, just for a split-second losing control as the vehicle fish-tailed around the curve, he deftly regain control as if he knew what he was doing.
“Dinner”, Red called.
“My Lord woman, you almost caused me to drive off the cliff.” He said clinching his cigarette holder between his teeth, swiveling it back and forth.
“Pause the game; you can get back to it after dinner.”
Throwing down the controller and drifting into the kitchen, he exclaimed: “What the hell is this!”
“It’s dinner”, she sarcastically indicated.
“This isn’t a dinner. This is a feast of the gods. And that is just what you presented; heaven knows what you have in the kitchen. Did you have this delivered? Because I didn’t see any delivery vans.”
“Well, after I cleaned your kitchen I went shopping and bought a few things – threw this together for dinner.” she said adroitly opening and pouring the Chianti.
“Red, you don’t mind me calling you Red do you?”
“Why should I start now?”
“Well Red, I have a myriad of questions, not the least is what is your actual name. But first, what are you doing here?”
“You hired me. I didn’t think you would remember, so the contract spells out our duties and obligations.”
“You hired a lawyer to write an employee contract?”
“No, I am a lawyer.”
“Yes and I am residing upstairs, in the empty suite.”
“Excellent. I always wanted an attorney living upstairs. The herb crusted rack of lamb is excellent, and the potatoes Boulangère – best ever. How did we meet? Whatever I’m paying you, I’m sure I can’t afford it.”
“We met in camera when you are attempting to get a restraining order against Mike. I was Mike’s attorney. I was filing restraining order against you.”
“Well, did Mike go home with my attorney?”
“I think he may have.”
“This meal has been fantastic, better than the most exclusive restaurants-what’s for dessert?”
“Let me thrash a batch of whipped cream.”
“Be quick about it, I have a game to finished!”
Raining. T’was hot and humid, moist. No, no – those were not the words he was looking for; sultry, it was sultry. Perspiration beaded up and trickle down his face; wiping it away in attempt to remain comfortable.
“Dammit, I could use a beer!” He pontificated murmuring.
“You could use a bear?”, a voice from behind him stated.
“Fuck! How the hell did you get in here!”, He blabber to the sultry redhead wearing a T-shirt 2 sizes too small and Daisy Dukes. Her deep blue eyes stared at his back.
“Through the door, how else would I get in here?”
“I want a cold beer – not bear!”
“A cold bear, like a polar bear not a warm bear like a brown bear?”
“Dammit woman a beer, beer! Not a bear, the only person I know who would want a bear isn’t anywhere near here, is she?”, he admonished her gravely.
“Don’t disparage me for your failure to enunciate.” she chided.
“Are we going to have an argument?”
“I don’t think so,” she stated, “an argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition. We’re having a fight.”
Swiveling briskly in his chair he turned to confront her. “Oh my Lord woman, you’re navigational hazard in that outfit. How, how – I thought that only happened in cold weather? You might blind somebody with those! I have no idea what I was thinking about.”
“Well there are other ways. It’s hot, you know; ever hear of ice cubes?”
“Ice cubes? Do you think that might – oh never mind. By the way, when it cools down you think…”
“In your dreams.” She laughed interrupting him.
Suddenly, all hell broke loose. Bursting through the doorway dressed in a cockamamie 16th century garb, with a wide brim hat, gold loop earrings, beads in his beard. he swash buckled in yelling, “Avast ye nates, Who here be willing shiver me timbers? Fetch me rum -I need to wash me this salty crust of vast.” The Norwegian blue parrot rested quietly on his shoulder; he was probably asleep – and not dead. He turned to her and explained “How’d you like to see my plank?”
“Oh, I was wondering if that was your peg leg or if you were just glad to see me?”
“Well blow me – down, and make me Roger Jolly!”
“As far as you’re concerned, you’re sailing the horse latitudes. Your sheets be a bit flaccid and there be too many barnacles on the old rudder. This scabbard will never sheath yar cutlass. This porthole be barred.”
“Well then, route me to a neighborly lagoon where I may drop me anchor.”
“2 blocks down, 3rd house on the left; tell them Maggie sent to you.”
” Well then I’d be thankin’ ye, the cannon be loaded and I’m off to unload a broadside on a fine booty.”
With exasperation, he said, “now, do you think I can get back to my writing?”
“Well?” He stated.
You haven’t broken all the rules yet. You certainly need a prologue; not fractured there. And your gratuitous use of sexual innuendoes is, at best, sophomoric. ” She ended – still without turtles.
- Never open with weather.
- Avoid prologues.
- Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
- Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”…he admonished gravely.
- Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
- Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
- Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
- Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
- Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
- Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.