This is a piece I wrote based on this song:
(Bonny Wood Green)...to commemorate all those lives lost, all the men who served and never made it home, and all the women who waited for their loved ones to return.
The meadow is green, the fresh green of a new spring. The birds sing above in the canopy of trees. I watch, hidden in the foliage as a girl and her friend dance around the clearing. Carefree. Not thinking of me. She was never thinking of me.
I watch for a while, hidden above, the branches threatening to break at any minute. Once or twice I think her eyes flick in my direction. But all too soon she is gone, leaving nothing behind her save the memory of a girl dancing in an ivory tunic, auburn curls flying everywhere, chicken legs awkward and graceful. And beautiful.
I walk about the village at night, the stars twinkling gaily above me, their spirits alive with the thought of such innocent, young love. I see her at her window, staring into the night. Her eyes are glazed over and she doesn’t move. Thinking, just thinking. She was never lovelier than when she just pondered the most insignificant details of life. The leaves falling from the trees in October; the smallest snowflake stuck to a woolen mitten; a petal in the mud, unsullied by the heels of boots stomping through the village.
When a door opens, I nearly jump out of my skin. She creeps into the growing darkness, a candle in one hand. Her nightgown billows about her unshod feet, exposing three inches of bare ankle. The wind sweeps her time darkened hair away from her neck, gleaming pale and milky white in the moonlight. Her lips part in a perfect O when she sees me, a silhouette in the dark. She follows the shadow to the clearing where the stars peek through the canopy of leafy, green trees. I am the boy she once made fun of in school; now a young man. But she is still the girl I was always in love with. She takes my hand in hers; they are so very small and pale in my own roughened, weather beaten hands. I bring it gently to my lips, a silent promise. I caress the soft skin of her neck, her cheeks, her arms; one shoulder escapes from the loose gown she wears and I trail down soft kisses, swift and light as the flapping wings of the butterflies in the summer; she sighs, one hand knotting tightly in my hair, the other strokes across my jaw, roughened by two days’ worth of unshaven skin. I press my lips against hers, my breath ragged with longing and desire…
But, too soon, the night is over and day begins again. We seem to have all the time in the world together; every day is spent wandering the lush green hills. I kiss you every moment I can and when I ask you to marry me, you say yes. That was the happiest day of my life, the day we said “till death do us part”. But when the British army comes recruiting, I find myself leaving; walking away from my home, my family and my one true love to join the forces at war. It is agony, agony in its purest form. I walk on, not knowing what lies ahead. But I don’t want to know what is going to happen to me. All that matters is that nothing ever happens to her. But I cannot leave without kissing her sweetly, one last time…
When I reach my post, the men are weak and tired from hunger and disease. Their loved ones are all they talk about when they receive the news that they can go home: their service is finished. Mine is about to begin.
I have never felt so alone; never have I missed her more than I do now.
The trenches teem with a number of horrifying things, but we have no choice but to bunker down deep into the filth to avoid the bullets flying overhead and the shells exploding around us. The ground shakes as another artillery shell lands close by. The sudden cease in gunfire tells me that men are either dead or dying. The sun creeps over the horizon, but it is not the warm carefree sun that we spent so many days lying under; it is laughing at me, mocking how few hours are left before the nightmare begins again. As we retrieve the wounded from the fields, I feel a pang for every soldier I see that I had met and befriended.
There are so very few of us left now. When night falls, the horror starts anew. I can’t hear my unit commander over the steady firing of a machine gun. I only see his lips move as the ground beneath me erupts. All I can do is shout your name until everything turns black…
Miles away, you wait for me in a white apron. Every knock at the door, every footstep outside makes you run to the window, hoping for me to return. But the days turn into weeks, the weeks into months and you give up all hope for my safe return. And so you sit at the window, your dress faded in patches where the rays of sunlight seeped in. Your auburn hair is coming loose and there are such lines of sadness on your young and beautiful face. But I will return, my love. And when I do, I will kiss you sweetly, as if I had never been gone at all.