“ABOUT TURN! … ATTENTION! … DISMISS!"
A full-throated command to a drilled mass
I remember it dimly from parade grounds seen in childhood
the assembled drumbeat of feet disintegrating into hubbub, obscurity and dust.
But there is also a subtlety, addressed to individuals who turn their backs
to go boldly where the facts lead them astray
from the main stream of conformity, and its gathered strength.
So it was that two men, smiling, frowning, angry, polite
said to me, their minds and lips nimble
far from skirmishing with anything that might sound even vaguely like
that word strong, separating me from a field where I with them had toiled and struggled.
FAIR? No, sir!
HURTS? Yes, sir!
UNDER ORDERS TO TURN THE OTHER CHEEK?
Reluctancy turns me round and about
spins me dizzy
till I do, eventually, stagger to attention,
take the deepest breath
and, softly as asssisted strength, whisper
“Dismiss”, and shake from my feet the dust.