Skulls as Drums

Skulls as Drums

When the first drumtaps sound and trumpets buzz
through doors and windows, then may no one stir.
May listeners keep their seats while orators
fear to speak to the point. In chalky schoolrooms
may schoolboys not look up; in bridal chambers
heart clocks’ll keep “Tick-Tock” although the drums
beat to a different time; or the same time.

In the plowed field, or field of ripened grain,
may farmers look up, – and spit. However drums
pound or whirr, however shrill horns blow,
housewives’ll make beds, – as usual.
Let men and women sleep with deafened ears.

Only the timid fear not fear; only
a coward stops his tears. Father, remember;
remind the boy of “bravery”! Mother,
entreat your heart! You who are fond of talking,
continue in conversation. You who are silent,
silently close your window; while heavy drums’ll
rattle quicker to a wilder and wilder bugle.

When more drums beat and shriller bugles squeal;
armored hearses snarl around that tomb
where covered skeletons play with live corpses.

…..Roll your great stone before the door.
(They will stifle breathing air
so foetal grey with funk.] Now, charge your wire
that’ll bring a galvanic startle to their great
Jack-in-the-Box. Open the lid. Look in:
Whoever stifles fear, he is the coward.
Gaze on the corpse, pre-mortified
-gas bloated- of Mars. And on the fearful
helm of Suicide, Inc., drum, drum, drum
drum louder to drum up more fear.
From fear and fear a sterner fear is born
whose name is Wrath, – a filament of light
in every man. O, snarling bugles!
Crack the great stone before the door.
Drill the fat corpses for a brave parade.
Send the brave skulls and bones under the yoke
with thump of muffled drum and trumpet blurr.

– John Wheelwright

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