Dawn Drums

They march again to war,
Sniffling, shuffling, voices muffled,
Through dawn’s uncertain door

Youth and man, rich and poor,
Through campfires’ smothered smokes
They march again to war,

From college, farm and store
They carry loaded muskets
Through dawn’s uncertain door

Damp drums tapping, four by four,
Meadow mists like ghosts ahead,
They march again to war

Black cannon mouths, fresh gore,
Shattered limbs and death await
Through dawn’s uncertain door

Flags yet furled
And bayonets sheathed,
They march again to war
Through dawn’s uncertain door


Silent Drums

The drums lie tilted, battered and still;
Grass fires gutter where none are left to kill;
Bitter smoke coils through leafless trees;
A stunned horse quivers on bloody knees;

A tin cup’s clank, a thump, a moan –
Battle’s requiem in dissonant tones
Drifts above those soon to be dead,
Blue coated, gray, now innocent of dread.

Bloodied fingers reach for a hand to hold
And are touched instead by day’s last gold.
A torn boy’s dying, upraised hand
Marks Union’s price and freedom’s stand.


Robert Walton’s short story “Dogwood Dream” won first place in New Millennium Writing’s 2011 short fiction contest and was subsequently published by “Steel Toe.”  His novella “Vienna Station” won the Galaxy prize and was published as an e-book.  It is available for Kindle on Amazon.  Most recently, his short story “Like a thorny Child” won the Central Coast Writers spring writing contest.

These poems are among the entries for the Society of Classical Poets’ 2012 Poetry Competition.

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One Response

  1. neal Whitman

    In 1888, after Dr. William Osler made a house call on Walt Whitman, he went to his
    Club and opened a volume of Leaves of Grass and closed it. “Whether the meat was too strong, or whether it was the style of cooking, ’twas not for my pampered palate, accustomed as I was to the likes of Shelley and Keats.” You see, he preferred what is served up here at the SCP and the likes of Robert Walton. In time, Osler broadened his ingestion. War does that. In 1917, his 21-year old son, Revere, was killed on the Somme. Late at night, this father reads Whitman’s Civil War poetry. The Good, Grey Poet nursed Union wounded in hospital tents and knew of suffering:

    I saw the corpses, myriads of
    but they suffer’d not…
    The living remain’d and suffer’d.

    Robert, your poems evoke in rhyme and meter, the world Walt Whitman reported in free verse. I stand at attention for Whitman, but also salute you for your pictorial poems that explode on the page. Reading your verse adds color to your strong strokes.

    Amicus poeticae,

    Neal Whitman


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