[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
The Dead Kings
(France, January 7th, 1917)

All the dead kings came to me
At Rosnaree, where I was dreaming.
A few stars glimmered through the morn,
And down the thorn the dews were streaming.

And every dead king had a story
Of ancient glory, sweetly told.
It was too early for the lark,
But the starry dark had tints of gold.

I listened to the sorrows three
Of that Eire passed into song.
A cock crowed near a hazel croft,
And up aloft dim larks winged strong.

And I, too, told the kings a story
Of later glory, her fourth sorrow:
There was a sound like moving shields
In high green fields and the lowland furrow.

And one said: "We who yet are kings
Have heard these things lamenting inly."
Sweet music flowed from many a bill
And on the hill the morn stood queenly.

And one said: "Over is the singing,
And bell bough ringing, whence we come;
With heavy hearts we'll tread the shadows,
In honey meadows birds are dumb."

And one said: "Since the poets perished
And all they cherished in the way,
Their thoughts unsung, like petal showers
Inflame the hours of blue and gray."

And one said: "A loud tramp of men
We'll hear again at Rosnaree."
A bomb burst near me where I lay.
I woke, 'twas day in Picardy.

By Francis Ledwidge
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
Oxford Revisited in War-Time

Beneath fair Magdalen’s storied towers
I wander in a dream,
And hear the mellow chimes float out
O’er Cherwell’s ice-bound stream.

Throstle and blackbird stiff with cold
Hop on the frozen grass;
Among the aged, upright oaks
The dun deer slowly pass.

The chapel organ rolls and swells,
And voices still praise God;
But ah! the thought of youthful friends
Who lie beneath the sod.

Now wounded men with gallant eyes
Go hobbling down the street,
And nurses from the hospitals
Speed by with tireless feet.

The town is full of uniforms,
And through the stormy sky,
Frightening the rooks from the tallest trees,
The aeroplanes roar by.

The older faces still are here,
More grave and true and kind,
Ennobled by the steadfast toil
Of patient heart and mind.

And old-time friends are dearer grown
To fill a double place:
Unshaken faith makes glorious
Each forward-looking face.

Old Oxford walls are grey and worn:
She knows the truth of tears,
But to-day she stands in her ancient pride
Crowned with eternal years.

Gone are her sons: yet her heart is glad
In the glory of their youth,
For she brought them forth to live or die
By freedom, justice, truth.

Cold moonlight falls on silent towers;
The young ghosts walk with the old;
But Oxford dreams of the dawn of May
And her heart is free and bold.

By Tertius van Dyke
Magdalen College, January, 1917
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
Sean South of Garryowen

Sad are the homes round Garryowen since they lost their joy and pride
And the banshee cry links every vale around the Shannon side
That city of the ancient walls, the broken treaty stone,
Undying fame surrounds your name, Sean South from Garryowen

T'was on a dreary New Years Eve as the shades of night came down
A lorry load of volunteers approached the border town
There were men from Dublin and from Cork, Fermanagh and Tyrone,
And the leader was a Limerick man - Sean South from Garryowen

As they moved along the street up to the barracks door
They scorned the danger they might face, their fate that lay in store
They were fighting for old Ireland to claim their very own
And the foremost of that gallant band was South from Garryowen

But the sergeant spied their daring plan; he spied them through the door
The Sten guns and the rifles a hail of death did pour
And when that awful night had passed, two men lay cold as stone
There was one from near the border town and one from Garryowen

No more will he hear the seagull's cry over the murmuring Shannon tide
For he fell beneath a Northern sky, brave Hanlon by his side
They have gone to join that gallant band of Plunkett, Pearse and Tone
A martyr for old Ireland: Sean South from Garryowen

By 'The Wolfe Tones

Sean South, died January 1, 1957

[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
Crucifix Corner

There was a water dump there, and regimental
Carts came every day to line up and fill full
Those rolling tanks with chlorinated clear mixture;
And curse the mud with vain veritable vexture.
Aveluy across the valley, billets, shacks, ruins,
With time and time a crump there to mark doings.
On New Year's Eve the marsh glowed tremulous
With rosy mist still holding late marvellous
Sun-glow, the air smelt home; the time breathed home.
Noel not put away; new term not yet come,
All things said 'Severn', the air was full of those calm meadows;
Transport rattled somewhere in the southern shadows;
Stars that were not strange ruled the most quiet high
Arch of soft sky, starred and most grave to see, most high.
What should break that but gun-noise or last Trump?
But neither came. At sudden, with light jump
Clarinet sang into 'Hundred Pipers and A'',
Aveluy's Scottish answered with pipers true call
'Happy we've been a'together'. When nothing
Stayed of war-weariness or winter's loathing,
Crackers with Christmas stockings hung in the heavens,
Gladness split discipline in sixes and sevens,
Hunger ebb'd magically mixed with strange leavens;
Forgotten, forgotten the hard time's true clothing,
And stars were happy to see Man making Fate plaything.

By Ivor Gurney
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
Christmas Day in the Cookhouse

It was Christmas day in the cookhouse,
The happiest day of the year,
Men's hearts were full of gladness
And their bellies full of beer,
When up spoke Private Shorthouse,
His face as bold as brass,
Saying, 'We don't want your Christmas pudding
You can stick it up your ...'

Tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy,
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy!

It was Christmas day in the harem,
The eunuchs were standing round,
And hundreds of beautiful women
Were stretched out on the ground,
When in strode the Bold Bad Sultan,
And gazed at his marble halls,
Saying, 'What do you want for Christmas, boys?'
And the eunuchs answered...

Tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy,
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy!


[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
Merry Christmas, My Friend

'Twas the night before Christmas, he lived all alone,
In a one-bedroom house made of plaster and stone.
I had come down the chimney, with presents to give
and to see just who in this home did live.

As I looked all about, a strange sight I did see,
no tinsel, no presents, not even a tree.
No stocking by the fire, just boots filled with sand.
On the wall hung pictures of a far distant land.

With medals and badges, awards of all kind,
a sobering thought soon came to my mind.
For this house was different, unlike any I’d seen.
This was the home of a U.S. Marine.

I’d heard stories about them, I had to see more,
so I walked down the hall and pushed open the door.
And there he lay sleeping, silent, alone,
Curled up on the floor in his one-bedroom home.

He seemed so gentle, his face so serene,
Not how I pictured a U.S. Marine.
Was this the hero, of whom I’d just read?
Curled up in his poncho, a floor for his bed?

His head was clean-shaven, his weathered face tan.
I soon understood, this was more than a man.
For I realized the families that I saw that night,
owed their lives to these men, who were willing to fight.

Soon around the Nation, the children would play,
And grown-ups would celebrate on a bright Christmas day.
They all enjoyed freedom, each month and all year,
because of Marines like this one lying here.

I couldn’t help wonder how many lay alone,
on a cold Christmas Eve, in a land far from home.
Just the very thought brought a tear to my eye.
I dropped to my knees and I started to cry.

He must have awoken, for I heard a rough voice,
“Santa, don’t cry, this life is my choice
I fight for freedom, I don’t ask for more.
My life is my God, my country, my Corps.”

With that he rolled over, drifted off into sleep,
I couldn’t control it, I continued to weep.

I watched him for hours, so silent and still.
I noticed he shivered from the cold night’s chill.
So I took off my jacket, the one made of red,
and covered this Marine from his toes to his head.

Then I put on his T-shirt of scarlet and gold,
with an eagle, globe and anchor emblazoned so bold.
And although it barely fit me, I began to swell with pride,
and for one shining moment, I was Marine Corps deep inside.

I didn’t want to leave him so quiet in the night,
this guardian of honor so willing to fight.
But half asleep he rolled over, and in a voice clean and pure,
said “Carry on, Santa, it’s Christmas Day, all secure.”

One look at my watch and I knew he was right,
Merry Christmas my friend, Semper Fi and goodnight.

By James M. Schmidt

[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
Advent, 1916

I dreamt last night Christ came to earth again
To bless His own. My soul from place to place
On her dream-quest sped, seeking for His face
Through temple and town and lovely land, in vain.

Then came I to a place where death and pain
Had made of God's sweet world a waste forlorn,
With shattered trees and meadows gashed and torn,
Where the grim trenches scarred the shell-sheared plain.

And through that Golgotha of blood and clay,
Where watchers cursed the sick dawn, heavy-eyed,
There (in my dream) Christ passed upon His way,
Where His cross marks their nameless graves who died
Slain for the world's salvation where all day
For others' sake strong men are crucified.

by Eva Dobell
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
A Soldiers' Cemetery

Behind that long and lonely trenched line
To which men come and go, where brave men die,
There is a yet unmarked and unknown shrine,
A broken plot, a soldier’s cemetery.

There lie the flower of youth, the men who scorn’d
To live (so died) when languished Liberty:
Across their graves flowerless and unadorned
Still scream the shells of each artillery.

When war shall cease this lonely unknown spot
Of many a pilgrimage will be the end,
And flowers will shine in this now barren plot
And fame upon it through the years descend:
But many a heart upon each simple cross
Will hang the grief, the memory of its loss.

by John William Streets

John William Streets, killed July 1, 1916 at the opening battle of the Somme

The Battle of the Somme ended November 18, 1916
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
Ode to the Fallen

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is a music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncountered:
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables at home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end they remain.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,
We will remember them.

By Laurence Binyon
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
Stand Our Ground

Will you take me up to Rose Hill
When you lay my body low
Wrap me in a flag, throw some flowers on the ground
Say a few words then let me go
There's no need to defend my honor
Or justify the life I gave
There's no need for the pictures of my happy childhood there
Please don't pour salt upon my grave

I knew long ago that I would be the one
To brandish my sword should they beat those battle drums
I stood my ground, I stood for something worth falling for

Ask my father to forgive me
I know he didn't understand
He worked too hard for way too many years
To lose his only boy in a foreign sand
No doubt, he is angry
No doubt where he'll place the blame
But don't let him fall apart, Mama, don't let him go back to the pills
Only time will ease the pain

I died a patriot, a soldier just like him
Fought like he taught me to, until the very end
I stood my ground, I stood for something worth falling for

Take my stripes and take my medals
Take my cross and these dog tags, too
Put 'em in a package and stain it with your tears
Send it up to Pennsylvania Avenue
My last regards to the man in charge
Let him know I served my country well
Yeah, he was right behind me all the way to Kandahar
The night my broken body fell

Don't let a day go by without a peaceful prayer
For my brothers and my sisters still fighting over there
They stand their ground,
They stand for something worth falling for

By Corey Smith

Battle of Kandahar, October 2001

[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
Lament For The Poets: 1916

I heard the Poor Old Woman say:
"At break of day the fowler came,
And took my blackbirds from their songs
Who loved me well thro' shame and blame

No more from lovely distances
Their songs shall bless me mile by mile,
Nor to white Ashbourne call me down
To wear my crown another while.

With bended flowers the angels mark
For the skylark the place they lie,
From there its little family
Shall dip their wings first in the sky.

And when the first suprise of flight
Sweet songs excite, from the far dawn
Shall there come blackbirds loud with love,
Sweet echoes of the singers gone.

But in the lovely hush of eve
Weeping I grieve the silent bills"
I heard the Poor Old Woman say
In Derry of the little hills.

By Francis Ledwidge

Lives of war poets of the First World War
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
November, 1806

Another year!--another deadly blow!
Another mighty Empire overthrown!
And We are left, or shall be left, alone;
The last that dare to struggle with the Foe.
'Tis well! from this day forward we shall know
That in ourselves our safety must be sought;
That by our own right hands it must be wrought;
That we must stand unpropped, or be laid low.
O dastard whom such foretaste doth not cheer!
We shall exult, if they who rule the land
Be men who hold its many blessings dear,
Wise, upright, valiant; not a servile band,
Who are to judge of danger which they fear,
And honour which they do not understand.

by William Wordsworth

War of the Fourth Coalition
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
So I Was A Coffin
For Corporal Kyle Powell, died in my arms, 04 November 2006

They said you are a spear. So I was a spear.

I walked around Iraq upright and tall, but the wind blew and I began to lean.
I leaned into a man, who leaned into a child, who leaned into a city. I walked
back to them and neatly presented a city of bodies packaged in rows.
They said no. You are a bad spear.

They said you are a flag. So I was a flag.

I climbed to the highest building, in the city that had no bodies, and I smiled
and waved as hard as I could. I waved too hard and I caught fire and I burned
down the city, but it had no bodies. They said no. You are a bad flag.

They said you are a bandage. So I was a bandage.

I jumped on Kyle's chest and wrapped my lace arms together around his torso and
pressed my head to his ribcage and listened to his heartbeat. Then I was full, so
I let go and wrung myself out.

And I jumped on Kyle's chest and wrapped my lace arms together around his torso
and pressed my head to his ribcage and listened to his heartbeat. Then I was full, so
I let go and wrung myself out.

And I jumped on Kyle's chest and wrapped my lace arms together around his torso
and pressed my head to his ribcage but there was no heartbeat. They said no. You
are a bad bandage.

They said you are a coffin. So I was.

I found a man. They said he died bravely, or he will. I encompassed him
in my finished wood, and I shut my lid around us. As they lowered us
into the ground he made no sound because he had no eyes
and could not cry. As I buried us in dirt we held our breaths together
and they said, yes. You are a good coffin.

By Gerardo Mena

[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com

The door of Heaven is on the latch
To-night, and many a one is fain
To go home for one's night's watch
With his love again.

Oh, where the father and mother sit
There's a drift of dead leaves at the door
Like pitter-patter of little feet
That come no more.

Their thoughts are in the night and cold,
Their tears are heavier than the clay,
But who is this at the threshold
So young and gay?

They are come from the land o' the young,
They have forgotten how to weep;
Words of comfort on the tongue,
And a kiss to keep.

They sit down and they stay awhile,
Kisses and comfort none shall lack;
At morn they steal forth with a smile
And a long look back.

By Katharine Tynan Hinkson
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
Dispatch from the Home Front: Halloween 2001

like every other year I sit outside with a guitar
while kids roam in small packs
from lit door to lit door

the costumes tonight are not that frightening

angels and fairies and superheroes abound
a few bloodsuckers and ghouls
a sprinkling of skeletons
no terrorists

the adults pretend to be scared

jessie (the giraffe from across the street)
solemnly hands me M & Ms from her stash
when I put the Snickers in her pumpkin
“honey,” I tell her
“it’s not a trade – it‘s a gift”
and she solemnly takes them back

the young girl in the bathrobe and curlers
wearing the sign that says
says to me
“I want to hear you play your prettyful music”

I hand her candy
and I pick up my guitar
to play a song appropriate to the season
(a song by the Grateful Dead)
for this world’s recent ghosts

this world
where unimaginable ashes
sift down on children’s beds

in one part of this world
the very rocks and baseballs
smell of abrasives, jet fuel, burning rubber, corpses

in another part of this world
they are making the mail glow white
long enough to kill what lives on the words

in another part of this world
this guitar would be

in that country a shrouded woman
has been carefully picking food from a minefield
(food that was airdropped in my name)

she runs and lifts her child from the ground
raising his head high up onto her shoulder
vainly trying to keep the frightening blood from spilling too much

it will take her years to fall asleep again

when she does fall asleep
she will dream of picking up a yellow bomblet
wrapping it in swaddling clothes
suckling it until it blooms hot and bright

but she will not cry
as she holds him in that dream

we all dream that dream these days
we all hold our children closer
while holding back tears

a dream like that
is not a gift
it is a trade
we have all already given
more than enough in return for this one
and you do not let go of your tears
when tears are all you have left

Halloween night
I am pushing aside the veil between the worlds
a mourning person waiting for dawn
pretending to be scared to cover real fear
while I give sweets and prettyful music
to my neighbors’ children

we are all a long way from home

if I knew the way
I would take you home

by Tony Brown

U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, October 2001
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com

Bacon Academy
Colchester, CT
October 31st, 2001


Shortly after 9/11,
a boy who had been stealing pick-up trucks
from a local dealership
and hiding them in the woods
so he could sell them later,
decided to fashion a fake bomb
and place it on the loading dock
outside the cafeteria
on Halloween morning.

We, of course, were all still
emotionally threadbare
and sent into a frazzle.

The first order of the morning
was to stop the buses
before they got into the parking lot,
and not let the kids into the school.

As each top-heavy yellow clunker
pulled its plume of blue smoke into the drive,
we stopped it and tried to explain
what was going on,
without freaking out the vampires,
witches, monsters, and ghosts,
12 buses,
each filled with high school kids
all being something else for the day.

We sent the buses to the elementary school,
where all 800 ghouls
would hang out in the tiny gym
until the danger had passed.

Take a moment here to imagine that.


I thought of my own youth—
different time, same fear—
the old days of “duck and cover,”
air raid horn baying at the spring sky,
and all of us either balled up under our desks,
or standing, boy girl boy girl
against the cool, cool
painted cinder block walls
in the shadowy hallways of St. Mary’s,
the perfume of lilacs
in the breeze that breathed there,

or before me, in England,
the shelters in underground tubes,
railway arches, subways,
and my Auntie Elsie,
staring in dread at the ceiling
in the shelter in her cellar.

And later,
after the Russians did their bomb,
and Yuri Gagarin swirled around in our sky,
General Foods and General Mills
sold dried war rations,
and the nuclear protection suit was a hot item.

Wall Streeters even claimed
that the bomb shelter business
would gross billions in the coming years,
if there were any.
And every day
the radio sizzled warnings
that a shoddy, homemade shelter
would get you broiled “to a crisp”
or squeezed “like grapefruit,”
as in American neighborhoods
people built “wine cellars,”
or else the contractors worked
under cover of night.

I cried into our couch
for 14 days straight in 1962,

and I didn’t even really know why
beyond the fact that all the adults
seemed quiet and scared,
and I understood the word annihilation,
and saw, over and over again,
the documentary where the house
gets blown away sideways
by a speeding cloud of nuclear winter.

But the bomb never fell,
even though everyone,
including me,
kept fear in their hearts,
and spent years
practicing for the end,


and it’s the same now.

When the kids returned to school
later that morning,
we tried to resume a
typical Halloween
in a typical American high school,
the kids dressed to kill,
the sugar-high higher
because they were back on familiar ground.
But the party didn’t last long.

Soon a voice filled with urgency
squawked over the perpetual loudspeaker
that we needed to immediately
go into the “S-plan.”

Ignore all fire alarms and bells.

Students in the hallway
should run to the nearest classroom.

Teachers lock your classroom door.
Do not let ANYONE in.

If students ask to be let in,
do not let them in.
Direct them to the office.
Do not let them in.

Cover the windows
with the black paper
that you’ve put aside
for this occasion.

Huddle all your students
into the corner,
away from the windows and doors.

Do not use the school phone
or your cell phone.

Stay there until you receive instructions.

And we did. For two hours,
me and the bum,
the Ninja Turtle,
the Queen of Hearts,
fear in the eyes behind the masks,
fear in the tears of the ballerina.

By John L. Stanizzi

Teen Charged With Bomb Hoax, Oct. 31 2001
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
Campaign Season

We pray for the troops at war with old gear
in that intricate date-scented desert where
a mother spits. House and son gone this year.

Kill him, a man at the rally sneers,
as the first notes of “Strange Fruit” plummet the air.
We pray for the troops at war with old gear.

Jesus is hailed. Community organizers draw jeers.
Drill!, screeches the woman with upswept hair.
A mother spits. House and son gone this year.

A Kansas woman says it’s Muslims she fears.
But they die in uniform for the ground we share.
We pray for the troops at war with old gear.

Wall Street and Main Street recklessly steer.
The story of a mother named Jocelyn Voltaire—
She spits. House foreclosed and son gone this year—

moves strangers to send $30K and volunteers.
The house stays hers for now, the court declares.
We pray for the troops at war with old gear.
A mother spits. House and son gone this year.

By Marie-Elizabeth Mali

Jocelyn Voltaire's home saved October 17 2008
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
The Raising of the Dead in Serbia
(In the final months, there was news that the Krajena Serbs were taking their dead with them as they retreated from the Croatian offensives.)

There is a shock in an exhumation:
A sense of wrongness at the penetration
Of a spade into a grave;

In the artillery rangefinder, the convoy
Ambles into view: the dead
Are arranged like lozenges beneath tarpaulins
On flatbed trucks;

But this is love: none could love their family more
Than to exhume them from a newly alien soil and say
Our Dead must travel and retreat with us;

For stronger than alcohol and greater than song
Is race in the Balkans.
It shapes and unshapes as alcohol and music do

In stories, in blood and earth:
When time, love, braided hair and bracelets
Are glimpsed together through the opening soil;

And all these are Venn diagram circles holding the living and the dead
Within the torque of burning towns;

And none are weighed like souls in Ancient Egypt-
Or by Saint Peter-none judged by anything save proximity in race,
In memory and song;

This convoy carries the only –defeated- soil
Not emptied of its names forever. It changes gear
To follow wobbling icons into exile, sainthood.

In ‘The Odyssey’ the dead crave blood and can see the future.

By Michael Brett

Belgrade falls to Austria-Hungary, October 9, 1915

Belgrade Offensive, September 14 - November 24, 1944

Independence of Croatia, October 8, 1991
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
But A Short Time To Live

Our little hour - how swift it flies
When poppies flare and lilies smile;
How soon the fleeting minute dies,
Leaving us but a little while
To dream our dreams, to sing our song,
To pick the fruit, to pluck the flower,
The Gods - They do not give us long, -
One little hour.

Our little hour - how short it is
When love with dew eyed loveliness
Raises her lips for ours to kiss
And dies within our first caress.
Youth flickers out like wind-blown flame,
Sweets of today to-morrow sour,
For Time and Death, relentless, claim
Our little hour..

Our little hour - how short a time
To wage our wars, to fan our hates,
To take our fill of armoured crime,
To troop our banner, storm the gates.
Blood on the sword, our eyes blood-red,
Blind in our puny reign of power,
Do we forget how soon is sped
Our little hour.

Our little hour - how soon it dies;
How short a time to tell our beads,
To chant our feeble Litanies,
To think sweet thoughts, to do good deeds,
The altar lights grow pale and dim,
The bells hang silent in the tower -
So passes with the dying hymn
Our little hour.

by Leslie Coulson

Leslie Coulson died October 8, 1916
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
The Wake Up

As the endless war in Afghanistan drags on and on,
Slowly emerging are tales of war atrocities by Americans,
By men in combat whose job is to kill other human beings,
And when they do, they tend to celebrate being alive,
Celebrate the enemy they have just killed as now dead.
The Indians of America would take “scalps,”
In Vietnam, ears of the dead were cut off,
Stored in plastic bags, like curled, dried, brown potato chips.
Reminder souvenirs of America’s triumph; of our “winning!”

In Afghanistan other photos emerged of American snipers
Pissing on the bodies of the dead enemy of Al Qaeda,
Others posing with enemy dead beneath German SS flags,
The latest photos show Americans holding up body-parts
Of dead the newly dead Afghanistan suicide bombers,
Who were trying to kill them and dying in their effort.
And who can forget the American Sergeant Robert Bales
On his 4th tour of combat, despite suffering head wounds,
Who mercilessly went out in the middle of the night,
To gun down 17 Afghanistan women and children,
In the dead of night...as they slept....

Afghanistan is a guerrilla war; a civil war; and a religious war,
To Americans, Afghans are “towel-heads,”
Any one of them could easily be a suicide bomber, a “martyr,”
Whose lives are meaningless; inconsequential; of no value,
So indiscriminate killing of the “enemy,” becomes the norm,
An acceptable reaction to perceived dangers; a survival tool.

As long as American troops are forced into multiple tours,
Multiple atrocities will continue...unabated,
For they are also put into “survival” mode, which has no rules;
Which has no boundaries; no “codes of conduct.”
For Afghanistan is an “unconventional war,”
Things like the “Geneva Convention,” are merely concepts
Of another time and another place and of another era.
Which are given lip service by the Military Leaders,
But on the ground, these go out the window; are disregarded.
Just as in most wars, today are wars that Generals,
Ranking Officers and Commanders in Chief, Never Fight In!
Those who fight return from war weary, worn out, empty,
Tired, and drained from an endless year of being on the edge.
This takes its toll, as every minute of every day one is guarded;
Suspicious, tense, walking a very fine line, a balancing act,
Knowing you can easily die at any time, at any place,
And never, even, see it coming!

One comes back from war fearful of the night, of dark,
For the dark represents the “unknown,” the unseen,
As “unknowns” are dangerous; unknowns will kill you.
One is on the precipice; cautious, suspicious of everything,
Bringing home the costly survival skills they learned
In combat, skills, skills, which kept them alive.
Yet, sudden noises startle; one steers away from crowds,
Doesn’t want anyone too close or near them,
For they trust nobody; are very leery of strangers,
They have learned the hard way, “Not to believe Nothin!’’

One is never quite the same after a year at war...
One returns from war...isolated and totally alone.
In war, one loses their innocence, their beliefs,
The National myths and traditions, which sent them to war,
Have proved false and misleading, for war has no glory,
The people they were sent to help are trying to kill them,
And do, as suddenly friends and buddies die indiscriminately;
They are there one moment, the next, they are chunks of meat
Bloody and scattered across the earth in pieces...forever dead!
It is an event no one can train for; no one can prepare for,
As deep inside you realize it is luck; it may just as well been you
Who got caught, chewed up and spit out dead...forever dead,

You would have been the one who died for what, and why?
And therein is the problem, the crisis, the predicament.
Something nobody seems to understand or can comprehend
As to why there are such problems for returning veterans,
Why they have changed their mindset; have become strangers,
Are so hard and difficult to deal with, have changed drastically,
Are no longer who they used to be; whom they will never be!
Can never again be the person they were...it is impossible.
For those who initially go to war have been conditioned;
Carefully taught and embedded in their imagination,
Regarding the patriotic glory of war, the flags waving,
Marching bands, national anthems, patriotic ceremonies,
Celebrations with fireworks and football game "fly-overs"
Ingrained in the culture as a vital part of your great country,
You were “Fighting for Freedom; for Democracy; for Liberty!”
In a noble cause to protect the homeland; your patriotic duty!

All the things our songs sing about...are forever gone.
They are reduced down to a dead, bloody friend,
Lying so still, so motionless, sprawled awkwardly,
On the foreign soil in a land so far away from his home,
Who’s sightless eyes stare unblinking into its own eternity.
Whose sad death was not heroic; not patriotic, not glorious
Rather a brutal snapshot of the horrors of war and dying
And your predominant feeling is strangely one of gladness,
A feeling of sick, jumbled, overwhelming relief
It was he, not you, who was killed and lying alone in the gore.
And for that, you will forever deal with the guilt of being alive!

All who go to war return back home changed,
Come back different; will never be the same.
For they cannot be the same, nor will they ever return,
To those wistful perfect days of youth and imagination;
Those dreamy days in an ideal world which never was,
Except in one’s desperate imagination and fanciful dreams.
Dreams, which kept one going, to get through one more day,
Which helped them make it through, just one more night!

One cannot change the past; one can only acknowledge it,
Then move on and try to leave it behind, it cannot be changed,
It cannot be different; be ignored nor disregarded,
It can only be somehow put into perspective,
And one day, it will be accepted as having happened,
Knowing that it changed you, but you survived war;
You finally “Wake Up” from the worst hell in the world,
And slowly return once more back to the living, to safety,
To a new world, which is yours to do with
As you may, and... as you choose!

By Curtis D Bennett

First U.S.-led attack on Afghanistan, October 7, 2001


War Poetry

January 2017

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