'Regiment' by Alex Keegan

Those who are left have risen and got ready. Our breakfasts were simple and the fires are out. Now we have no reason to be here. None will have slept well last night. The air was heavy but every man alive knows that what the night darkens the day can make light and that we are doing what men do, what is the only thing to do.

The regiment is grey, like an old horse stumbling to the yard, all that is left of the slaughtered priests and saints, but men, everyone. We leave down streets empty of good news knowing only the memory of us can come back.

I have turned it over in my mind, why we do not melt into the forests or burn our sorry uniforms. We cannot, Martha. A certain death faced is proof of our manhood and what is here has been here for years, since I signed for the shilling in Peckham that long ago. I was fifteen then, determined to be a man, I am forty-five now and finally it comes. It comes for every one of us.

We believe in the hereafter, but there is no proof. I suspect that some doubt, but when a day rises up like this, when the air is warm we can breathe and let it slide and step on to the treadmill and move to battle.

Old sergeants will have stretched their backs and talked to pale boys. Here, like this, and one last time, shown them how to kill. Yesterday we were one-hundred and sixty, today we are ninety-five. We are decrepit now; I have trouble with my spectacles, but nothing changes, we march towards the dust

I think of you reading this, Martha. I know you will be watching. Look up now and see. It will not be thousands there to cheer as it once was. The wives are fewer, there are no young. It is just the heavy silence of the finish. Remember I told you. It is about being a man and we would have it this way or not have anything. Sometimes the moon reflects, sometimes it shines out, but it is always the moon and it will still be there after we have gone, after the dust has settled and the blood has dried.

Comments

  1. Dense and atmospheric. A compelling and convincing voice. Well done.

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  2. Absorbing and moving writing. One that will stay with me.

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