I met élite today – not fixed in one who’d claim
To be, but rather one who was, and scorned the label
Lest he be associated with that other kind.
In former days of war – before the unmanned drones
And battles fought from Keys, we sent élite
Out to the front to standard-set the quality of fight
Ones faltering not – nor quisling in the clutch
But hitting hard and fast, then ruthless to the chase.
And in behind, we lesser minds and hearts who hold selves back
In mortal fear, find courage rise, or shame,
And drive on forward to the breach
In front or flank or rear
With nothing held reserve.
Not that there aren’t reserves held back by leaders
Such as he – for winning’s not
First battles fought, but smashing blows
To countering foes where ’ere
They show their heads.
These men, the real élite, are those we’d follow into hell
And gladly give our all to them, if just to battle well.
I understand the ruthless force such men
Infuse throughout -- lest glances back
And furtive looks give place to
They snap us to attention fast in body spirit mind
And raise us to the battle call
When dragging far behind.
They laugh and cry like other men
And long for restful nights –
Then hold that thought
As to be wrought
Out daily in the fight.
The morale-sapping influence
Of Cancer’s festering growth
Now stops in me –
The terrors flee –
And I take up again my sword
And press on to my fight
– Lest war be lost by me –
Not vanguard or reserve –
But me – the sagging middle of the ranks.