When he was a young man, he joined the army
As did all young men
The war they fought was a great one
And had been waged since time immemorial
Their enemy were the trees

It was not a frightening proposition, joining the army
Their casualties were but few
And those of the enemy, many
And besides, what else was there to do?

This is what life was, children were born
And when they grew to be men
They joined the army and fought the trees
And when they grew to be women
They kept the homes, and bore more children to fill the army

When first he went to fight the trees, he was amazed
They were not ordinary trees
Like none he'd ever seen
They walked- but slowly-
They waved their limbs and moaned war-moans

He wondered if their moans were a kind of language
Though it hardly sounded such
Still, how could one help but wonder? If
They were intelligent enou' to make war
Why should not they speak?
And yet, he was told- and believed- they were but savage hordes

He felt a momentary hesitation, before his first tree he killed
It came at him, as was their wont, waving and moaning
And for just an instant, he thought he saw something in its
Demeanor, or in its form... something almost human
The moment passed, and if he did not act he would surely lose his life
And so he swung his mighty axe, and felled the tree

And so his first day went, a rush
On the oncoming trees
Who were, as always, slaughtered
And the human casualties- what luck!
Today there were none
For, as always, the men had swords and battle-axes
And the trees, but heavy branches

And so the more days went
And on and on till years had passed
Some days the men took no losses
And never very many
And always were they victorious, every single battle

He wondered sometimes how the human forces could ever be depleted
And yet they were, and room was made for new ones
Until the day he noticed how young the men all were
No one more than forty, and most were half of that
And asking, was told- the elder warriors all deserted
And never were seen again
It was a fact of life, they told him, though no one understood
And all did vow t'would ne'er happen to them

Years still passed, and his wife- for eventually, all men took one-
Did bear him many children, and the eldest of them joined the war
He almost was sad to think of that
Tho why, he could not say
For he knew they wouldn't likely die in battle
And yet, he supposed, t'was always better to live in peace
Now where had that thought come from?
There never had been peace; this is what life was

And the years did pass as always, and his sons took wives
Who bore more children, while the men did slay more trees
But now he was growing tired, and had passed already
The age where so many did vanish from the ranks
He was proud to have avoided that curse
Tho many friends had been lost to it, he remained

And yet, he was tired more and more, and too quickly now
And often stopped to rest
And when one day the elder men went ahead to scout
He followed them, for his orders were to discover
Where deserters went; his commanders did believe him loyal
And so he was- he was the eldest warrior ever there had been
For fifty years had come and gone, and he had not vanished
As did all the others

He followed them, and when out of sight of the young warriors
They sat down all of them, for they were tired too
And watching always, he too sat and rested
He had a decade on these men, and was glad of the respite
Still, he hoped they would desert so he could find the cause
And where they disappeared to, never to be found

And as he, and they all sat, they listened to the quiet wind
So like the moans of trees, and watched it blow the leaves about
So many little leaves, blowing to and fro
And as he watched, they seemed smaller and farther away
But always all about

He watched the leaves, he watched the sky
He watched the men... betimes
He found himself forgetting, his mission
For the men did not move as did the leaves and clouds
In fact they did not twitch at all, but sat right in place
Or did they stand? Did he himself? He could no longer tell
Between sitting and standing, it was just the same

He thought he didn't move himself, and didn't think he could
For all he rested, he was still very tired
And would the war was over- but still he'd not desert
The leaves blew about his feet and those of the other old men
But- looking at the warriors, he wondered if there wasn't
Something in their aspect... not all human
He shook that silly thought off, and heard a rustling about his head

He hoped that soon the men would return to the camp
There were no trees here, and that should be reported
And so must the men have thought the same
For they rose- if they'd been sitting?
And started slowly back
For they were still so tired, and could not quickly walk

Sometime outside of camp, perhaps a minute just
They stopped and stood and waited-
For what he could not say
And then the sentry sighted them, and called the troops together
And they rushed upon the men
Perhaps, he thought, in wonder
That finally, finally, a group had not deserted
But had instead returned

And yet, he thought, this should not be a call
For all the warriors to come and welcome them
There were debriefings and other matters
To attend to yet, and he should want a meal and shower
And some time upon his bunk

Should come just now the commanders
But all the troops did come, and fast
So fast, so young
And shouting, why should that be?
And were their axes drawn? He
Thought to glance behind him-
Had the trees somehow snuck behind them?

But no, they were alone
The men did rush and shout
And he grew afraid they had gone mad
He tried to speak, to ask them what was wrong
He tried to wave them off, and bid them stop a moment
From his hands all he heard was rustling
From his mouth... but moans