The Old Soldiers' Home

By Howard Nemerov

Trumpet and drum, the old soldier said,
What has become of the regiment,
What of the company and the squad?
Some must be living, though cracked or bent
But I can't get it out of my head
How trumpet and drum paraded before
The marching young men, how they led
Us, green and dumb, where the war
      Opened his mouth to be fed

There was a hill, the old soldier said.
The military and manly thing
Was to take the hill, and we near did.
We got our fill and had our fling
And sowed our wild oats and our blood
All up and down the slope, before
We turned back, broken, and fled,
Bleeding and chill, where the war
      Opened his mouth to be fed.

God bless the State! the old soldier said
Which lets me wait in a fine house
With a bronze gate and an iron bed,
Reciting the roll call, win or lose,
The order of battle, the old parade
Climbing the hill. How long before
Trumpet and drum prate over my head?
I, chill and dumb, where the war
      Opens his mouth to be fed.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1955/09/the-old-soldiers-home/305168/