I found this poem whilst reading The Rattle Bag, a really good anthology compiled by Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney. I’d never heard of the poet, Keith Douglas, before or since, but this poem stayed with me regardless.
How to Kill
Under the parabola of a ball,
a child turning into a man,
I looked into the air too long.
The ball fell in my hand. It sang
in the closed fist: Open Open
Behold a gift designed to kill.
Now in my dial of glass appears
the soldier who is going to die.
He smiles, and moves about in ways
his mother knows, habits of his.
The wires touch his face: I cry
NOW. Death, like a familiar, hears
and look, has made a man of dust
of a man of flesh. This sorcery
I do. Being damned, I am amused
to see the centre of love diffused
and the waves of love travel into vacancy.
How easy it is to make a ghost.
The weightless mosquito touches
her tiny shadow on the stone,
and with how like, how infinite,
a lightness, man and shadow meet.
They fuse. A shadow is a man
when the mosquito death approaches.