The Casualties

By John Pepper Clerk

The casualties are not only those who are dead;

They are well out of it.

The casualties are not only those who are wounded,

Though they await burial by installment.

The casualties are not only those who have lost

Persons or property, hard as it is

To grope for a touch that some

May not know is not there.

The casualties are not only those led away by night;

The cell is a cruel place, sometimes a haven, 

No where as absolute as the grave.

The casualties are not only those who started

A fire and now cannot put it out. Thousands

Are burning that have no say in the matter.

The casualties are not those who escaping

The scattered shell become prisoners in

A fortress of falling walls.

The casualties are many, and a good number well

Outside the scenes of ravage and wreck;

They are the emissaries of rift,

So smug in smoke-rooms they haunt abroad,

They do not see the funeral piles

At home eating up the forests.

They are wandering minstrels who, beating on

The drums of the human heart, draw the world

Into a dance with rites it does not know

The drums overwhelm the guns.

Caught in the clash of counter claims and charges

When not in the niche other have left,

We fall.

All casualties of the war

Because we cannot hear each other speak,

Because eyes have ceased to see the face from the crowd,

Because whether we know or

Do not know the extent of wrong on all sides,

We are characters now other than before

The war began, the stay-at-home unsettled

By taxes and rumors, the looters for office

And wares, fearful every day the owners may return,

We all are casualties,

All sagging as are

The cases celebrated for kwashiorkor,

The unforeseen camp-follower of not just our war

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