The Ride of the Ancient Veteran

It is an ancient Veteran,

And he stopped one of three:

“By thy long sunken face and thy squinting eye

Now why stop me?

The Church doors are opened wide

And I am next for usher;

The ladies are met, the wine is poured, –

May hear the merry song.”

But still he holds the church guest –

There was a tank, retold he –

‘No, if you’ve got a festive tale,

Veteran! Come with me.”

He holds him with his scarred hand,

Repeated he, there was a tank –

“Now get out, you disfigured kook!

Or my hand will make you whimper.”

He controls him with his squinting eye –

The churchgoer stood still

And listened like an obedient child;

The Veteran had his power.

The churchgoer sat on a bench,

He could not leave:

And then spoke of the ancient veteran,

The glazed eyed Veteran.

The tank was revered, its’ audience departed –

Happily did they drive

Below the sun, below the dunes,

Below the high topped church.

The Sun came up on the north,

Out of the sand followed he:

And he shone dull, and on the south

Went down into the hills.

Farther and farther every day,

Till over the hole at noon –

The churchgoer clutched his chest,

For he felt the loud boom.

The priest walked through the hall,

White as snow;

Nodding their heads before he goes

The lively choir.

The churchgoer grasped his chest,

He could do nothing but sit still:

And then spoke of the ancient veteran,

The glazed eyed Veteran.

Listen, Visitor! Sand and Wind,

A Wind and Storm forceful!

For weeks and months it showed us weak –

Like prisoners we drove on.

Listen, Visitor! Rain and Water,

And it became striking yet:

And Sand tornado came flying by

As dark as night.

And through the mass the sandy mass

Did show a ghastly luster:

No shape of men could each us see –

The Sand was all amidst.

The Sand was here, the Sand was there,

The Sand was all to be found:

It swooshed and whirled and boiled and churned –

Like noises of a voice.

At length did cross a Dog,

Through the Wind it came;

And as if it were a fellow soldier.

We called to it by a name.

The soldiers gave it leftover rations,

And it circled the group:

The Sand disappeared;

The driver pressed us through.

And a clear opening developed ahead,

The dog did follow;

And every hour for rations or toys

Came to the soldier’s company!

In sand or wind on ground

It walked for war stories,

While through the night with mist

Shined the yellow moonlight.

“Jesus save you, ancient Veteran!

From the devils that curse you –

Why do you look like that?” – with my gun

I shot the Dog.

The original text imitated is “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. I chose this text because many male members of my family have gone into the military, and when they have gotten back from their service they were never the same. For some it has been years out of the service, for some it is still current. That is why I chose this medium, to me a soldier can always experience PTSD, and unfortunately in today’s society it is not uncommon to see homeless veterans on the streets that are still struggling emotionally and financially. I could picture the Mariner like an old veteran who talks to anyone that comes close to express his conflict of a difficult time that no one wants to willingly listen to because of the gruesomeness. The veterans do not get to tell their story because civilians feel uncomfortable; let alone process and deal with their time in the service that could help them heal.

I chose to keep the punctuation in the same place as the original to keep the sentence elements the same. I also kept the beginning of each line the same beginning word so it would reflect the original work in that way as well as shown in this example,

“It is an ancient Mariner,
And he stoppeth one of three.
‘By thy long grey beard and glittering eye,
Now wherefore stopp’st thou me?”

I also chose a veteran and a church setting because my family is from the Midwest and going to church is a very big part of their lives. It is also common to see veterans going to church, as they do not find solstice in much else. I aimed to follow the same madness the Mariner was experiencing from the guilt of his actions into the soldier’s insanity.

— Alison Vining


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