“War Correspondence”: A (Very Dark) Poem

Note: This one turned pretty grim. I don’t plan these things; sometimes the poem just wants to go in a certain direction. Also, I use some strong language. You’ve been warned.]


I penned a letter to our Queen

And sent a rider off with it;

Said, “The army’s scattered on the green;

The Kingdom’s gone to shit.

There’s a roving horde of bandits

And they’ve massacred the town.

‘Tis a black-hearted crew, and it’s

Burning all our farmlands down.

There’s plagues and famine; nation’s

Crumbling all around us.

The Holy Man’s examinations

Say that God’s as good as drowned us.”


The Queen replied, her message sent

By a speedy carrier bird:

“I was disturbed by your lament—

Such whining I have never heard!

Would it kill you, my good Lord,

To have a little joie de vivre?

If thou must die, by plague or sword,

At least have fun before you leave.”


I found this missive mystifying

And in haste wrote back to explain:

“Your Highness, people here are dying—

That is, the ones who aren’t already slain.”

I sent the bird away, as Sol set behind the hill,

And in the morn, the bird returned

With this reply, writ in Royal quill:

“My Lord, hast thou nothing learned

From all thy years of warring?

Embrace the thrill of looming Doom

And Death, thy sense of self ignoring,

And go you laughing to the tomb!”


In rage, I wrote again, my pen a-flying madly:

“What madness this, demented witch,

That you would treat your own so badly?

‘Tis no hardship for thee, all fat and rich,

To write these things from in your walls.

Thy guards protect thee, thy servants feed

And clothe, and clean your ivory halls.

How dare abandon us in time of need?”


I sent the note, expecting no reply

As the carrier departed to the south.

But when well nigh a week went by

I saw again the bird, a letter in its mouth.

The note was torn and stained with blood,

And written in a shaky hand;

And the exhausted bird fell with a thud

No sooner than I loosed the band.


“My Lord,” the monarch’s letter said,

“I have seen cruel nature’s ways enough

That I do not fear to join the Dead—

And think that ‘tis the Living have it tough.

As I write, I see foemen cross the water,

And soon I’ll reunite in the hereafter

With my beloved little daughter–

And so I greet my death with only laughter.”


This was the letter I read o’er

And then folded carefully in half.

Just then, I heard men and metal at the door

And turned to face them with a laugh.


What's your stake in this, cowboy?