by Liam Canniffe

Into the line the doughboys came,
Looking big and dressed to kill,
Very young and straight from school,
Erred in all things, as we had erred
And paid the price for doing so.
There in Flanders fields they fell,
To join the youth of years before,
In soil hallowed in mingled blood,
Learning Antietam stride no match
For that momentum of merciless
Unremitting machine gun misery,
The ceaseless clatter, singing fatality.
But on they came, constant as the
Rolling in from the Western sea,
Stomping their feet and stamping
their style,
Immigrants’ children returning
To tell the world their hour had
As henceforth they, time and again,
Would stride across the world stage,
Replacing those who years before
Had owed their loyalty to noblesse,
Obliged to none but self esteem.

Reproduced with the kind permission of the author. This poem features in the collection No Memorials – The Forgotten Irish (2015) by Liam Canniffe.