All the Dead Soldiers

By Thomas McGrath 1916–1990 Thomas McGrath
In the chill rains of the early winter I hear something—
A puling anger, a cold wind stiffened by flying bone—
Out of the north ...
                               and remember, then, what’s up there:
That ghost-bank: home: Amchitka: boot hill ....

They must be very tired, those ghosts; no flesh sustains them
And the bones rust in the rain.
                                              Reluctant to go into the earth
The skulls gleam: wet; the dog-tag forgets the name;
The statistics (wherein they were young) like their crosses, are weathering out,

They must be very tired.
                                     But I see them riding home,
Nightly: crying weak lust and rage: to stand in the dark,
Forlorn in known rooms, unheard near familiar beds:
Where lie the aging women: who were so lovely: once.

Thomas McGrath, “All the Dead Soldiers” from Selected Poems 1938-1988. Copyright © 1988 by Thomas McGrath. Used with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, www.coppercanyonpress.org.

Source: Poetry (March 1967).

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This poem originally appeared in the March 1967 issue of Poetry magazine

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March 1967
 Thomas  McGrath

Biography

For some fifty years, the late Thomas McGrath produced a prolific array of titles, encompassing poetry, novels, books for children, and several documentary film scripts, including uncredited work on the eloquent and exhilarating Smithsonian film about the history of flight, To Fly. But McGrath is primarily a poet, and although "important contemporary poets . . . proclaim him as a major voice in American poetry in the last three . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT War & Conflict, Living, Social Commentaries, Death

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