by Steve Earle
This is the best time of the day—the dawn
The final cleansing breath unsullied yet
By acrid fume or death’s cacophony
The rank refuse of unchained ambition.
And pray, deny me not but know me now,
Your faithful retainer stands resolute
To serve his liege lord without recompense
Perchance to fall and perish namelessly.
No flag-draped bier or muffled drum to set
The cadence for a final dress parade,
But it was not always thus—remember?
Once you worshipped me and named me a god
In many tongues and made offering lest
I exact too terrible a tribute.
Take heed for I am weary, ancient
And decrepit now and my time grows short;
There are no honorable frays to join.
Only mean death dealt out in dibs and dabs
Or horror unleashed from across oceans.
Assail me not with noble policy
For I care not at all for platitude
And surrender such tedious detail
To greater minds than mine and nimbler tongues
Singular in their purpose and resolve
And presuming to speak for everyman.
Oh, for another time, a distant field,
And there a mortal warrior’s lonely grave.
But duty charges me remain until
The end: the last battle of the last war.
Until that 'morrow render unto me
That which is mine, my stipend well deserved,
The fairest flower of your progeny:
Your sons, your daughters, your hopes and your dreams,
The cruel consequence of your conceit.