The soldier boy was sitting calmly underneath that tree.
As I approached it, I could see him beckoning to me.
The battle had been long and hard and lasted through the night
And scores of figures on the ground lay still by morning’s light.
“I wonder if you’d help me, sir”, he smiled as best he could.
“A sip of water on this morn would surely do me good.
We fought all day and fought all night with scarcely any rest –
A sip of water for I have a small pain in my chest.”
As I looked at him, I could see the large stain on his shirt
All reddish-brown from his warm blood mixed in with Asian dirt.
“Not much”, said he. “I count myself more lucky than the rest.
They’re all gone while I just have a small pain in my chest.”
“Must be fatigue”, he weakly smiled. “I must be getting old.
I see the sun is shining bright and yet I’m feeling cold.
We climbed the hill, two hundred strong, but as we cleared the crest,
The night exploded and I felt this small pain in my chest.”
“I looked around to get some aid – the only things I found
Were big, deep craters in the earth – bodies on the ground.
I kept on firing at them, sir. I tried to do my best,
But finally sat down with this small pain in my chest.”
“I’m grateful, sir”, he whispered, as I handed my canteen
And smiled a smile that was, I think, the brightest that I’ve seen.
“Seems silly that a man my size so full of vim and zest,
Could find himself defeated by a small pain in his chest.”
“What would my wife be thinking of her man so strong and grown,
If she could see me sitting here, too weak to stand alone?
Could my mother have imagined, as she held me to her breast,
That I’d be sitting HERE one day with this pain in my chest?”
“Can it be getting dark so soon?” He winced up at the sun.
“It’s growing dim and I thought that the day had just begun.
I think, before I travel on, I’ll get a little rest ……….
And, quietly, the boy died from that small pain in his chest.
I don’t recall what happened then. I think I must have cried;
I put my arms around him and I pulled him to my side
And, as I held him to me, I could feel our wounds were pressed
The large one in my heart against the small one in his chest.