as it pounds against his steed's sweaty flank
during what will be
their last ride together.
His wool sock soaks up
most of the warm plasma
though even through the ringing
of gunfire in his head
the sloshing sound resonates
giving a wet cadence to his unraveling.
"They're only flesh wounds,"
he'd lied to his Corporal
the darkness of night being a co-conspirator.
The good Corporal is dead now
so none of it matters.
Only the cavalry on his trail
will determine the final detail of his life:
When and where he shall perish
by a violent cloud of smoke.
Tree branches thwack
against his tattered uniform
as he rides through the cover
The smell of sulphur
in the air is overwhelming.
The smell of copper
on his breath sours his nostrils.
He spits a wad of blood to his left, then coughs up
something large and nondescript
solemnly swearing that another bodily function
has shut down as a result.
No one needs a pancreas
as much as a few more rounds
would help him now, but the days
of his dealing in lead are no longer.
He tosses his carbine over his right shoulder
in an effort to lighten his horse's last load.
The stock of the rifle slung across his back
was cracked in half by a bullet, slowing it down
before entry to make the meeting intimate.
The good Corporal would have dug
the slug out of his flesh
with his bayonet like clockwork
but the good Corporal is dead now
so none of that matters.
The rhythm of hooves on the forest floor
gets closer and louder and more like ferrous metal.
A volley of shots ricochets off
the wood in his vicinity
splinters of bark exploding into shrapnel.
"It's as good a spot as any," he says to his
running more on adrenaline
than any healthy sustenance.
When the next low limb
catches his chest
the Captain succumbs
taking him from his saddle
into the mud
where the contents of his boot spills
and is soon joined by the rest.
Through visions of love
he sees what never was
and by speaking of death
refuses to die.
Most of the barrage
lands in the softened earth.
None of the ones that hit
mar his face or chip his teeth.
Consider it a victory.