Playing Dead

standing in a queue to collect our costumes a chorus
line smiling (what you grinning at lad)             
on parade (smarten up) chest proud
(right two three
and turn two three)
we felt like dancing girls                          

only ‘till christmas it’ll be a pantomime (i think
we were the arse end of a cow) a tour of france
a song and laugh as we waved from the train
just time to to fix bayonets then be home again to sing
of goodwill to all men on earth    
roast chestnuts       
holly wreaths and a mistletoe kiss

we acted out our orders leaving a script to loved ones
tucked into the sand bags of the pits before
stepping on to the boards for our matinee performance
the conductor lifted his baton                   
in full voice we charged crying with stage fright                 
into the footlights of the winter sun and an overture            
of machine guns          
we walked tall
                                               centre stage
                            into no mans’ land


and the clapping artillery and the front row’s aim

no star performers       
no headline acts just haig’s troupe
with a cast of thousands

(cue) mortar applause            
(cue) poppy bouquets
then the final curtain falls



©2006 P.A.Levy
First published 2014 by Forward Poetry – In A Flanders Field Anthology