Dunkirk

by Megan Pattie

The melody of ten thousand men
Rises and falls over the hills and the sea.
Crowds are quiet then restless then peaceful.
Animation fades to contemplation with the light
And as we wait to be caught up by time,
The wind throws papers up into the air.

Not a pleasant smell can be found cradled in the air;
Changelings for the seaside scents come with the men
And settle on the sands and blow around with the dust of time,
Come to and fro like the ferries from land to sea,
The boats that will come to save us, our shining light,
Waiting for them makes these mad soldiers peaceful.

It is our knowledge that makes the scene peaceful.
We possess hope so strong we breathe it into the air.
And the dead carnival in the dying light
Is full of life as it was in the youth of these men,
Frivolous and childish, playing by the sea,
Singing songs, we are quite lost in time.

There is nothing that ever trudged so slow as this hazy time.
Not even we as we marched to the beach, peaceful,
And drew deep, needed breath as we looked upon the sea,
And took great gulps of the cold, gentle air,
Closer than ever to the homes of our men,
Glittering with joyful spray in the brightest light.

Fires big and small, here and there, throw light
As the sun fails, pulled from us by the time.
The night brings out darkness in these men.
They want for worthless treasures and are less peaceful.
Curses and yells taint the stillness of the air
And damaged men throw damaged men into the sea.

I throw my pencil, too blunt, to sail the sea,
Pale and delicate in a new and dawning light.
The heavy horns of boats blast the air,
More welcome than ever after all this time.
Farewell to the beach, we leave it pensive and peaceful.
Boats sail home with half as many men.

The melody of ten thousand men, carried by the sea.
I hold my letter to my chest and feel peaceful in the morning light.
This is the time we have been waiting for. I breathe in sweet familiar air.