The soldiers stared in chagrin as the dead man slowly sank.
He stared up in mute supplication,
Unwilling to invite any free man to calamity.
He would not ask for help.
And they looked, long and silent, as he ceased his struggles
And simply accepted the truth of his fate.
They kept their death watch for awhile,
Drinking tea, and smoking,
And talking of anything but.
Until one by one they stood,
Cleared their throats, shuffled their feet,
Looked awkwardly at the ground, or the sky, or the path ahead.
They knew he could not join them.
He knew they would not stay.
And he watched, mired and helpless,
As the men with whom he once bled and called brother
Slowly slipped into the dusk without saying goodbye.
They faded into the lengthening shadows
That he began to doubt they were ever there,
But for the footprints they left alongside his on the dusty road.
© mjc 21 June 2014