William Miller, “Hardy’s Soldier”

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Hardy’s Soldier

His uncle dug
the body up
with a garden spade.

It was time to plant roses,
Spring in Wessex,
turn the ancient soil.

And there he was,
one spade at a time—
bones, breastplate, sword.

The neighbors came,
even the rector, to see
what was left

of an army that fought
the old tribes, claimed
this land for Rome.

Hardy was a child,
a young boy, and saw
the look on the old people’s

faces—fear mixed
with wonder. The past
was not the past

but the start of a new
season. What else was buried
beneath the soil,

the loose fertile soil,
layer upon layer?
He never forgot that day

or the soldier who
was a boy himself,
someone who

fought when he was
told to, died before
he met the girl

who gave him children,
a piece of foreign land,
a garden of his own.


William Miller’s fifth collection of poetry, Three Roads, was published by The Edwin Mellen Press in 2012. His poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, The Penn Review, Shenandoah, Prairie Schooner, and The Southern Review. He lives and writes in the French Quarter of New Orleans.


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