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Two popular and long-established collections of  war poetry of the
First World War

Minds at War
A comprehensive
anthology of poetry of the First World War. All the greatest war poems of Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon and war poems of over 70 other notable poets. All set in the context of the poets' lives and historical records. With historic photographs and cartoons.  Edited by David Roberts.
 400 pages £15-99 (UK)



Out in the Dark
Anthology of
First World War poetry recommended for students and the general reader.
19 poems by
Wilfred Owen
, 27 by Siegfried Sassoon and over 90 more war poems by 45 significant poets including women writers. Contextual information and basic notes on many poems. Illustrated.  Edited by David Roberts.
185 pages - £10-99 (UK)



Falklands War Poetry cover

WAR POETRY 2011  -  The War Poetry Website

Tahrir Square,the generals crack down, Nov 2011, Amnesty pic

On this page - The Arab Spring -  video poems

About Peace Poetry and a poem, Brother -  Hugh Mann

A new Christmas Poem (2011)
A brave New World?  -  Felicity Currie

Elegy for Jos (from Nigeria)  -  Ibukun Babarinde

The Winds of Troodos  -  Bill Mitton

What need I the waving flags, introduced by the author, Bill Mitton

Young sons by Bill Mitton

The thousand-mile stare by Colonel Simon Marr, MBE (from a new book of war poems, Heroes.)

War is like Tears - Naresh Kangmang (from a new book of war poems, Heroes.)

Three poems by John Bailey (serving in Iraq, 2011)

Warface  -  Mike Reinstein -  A song  -  read the words and hear the song.

The Return of the Civil War Soldiers  -  Michael Brett

Fiancé in Afghanistan  -  Abi Townsend

So I was a coffin by Gerardo Mena - Text and video of this prize-winning poem

Four war poems by "an ex officer" ((British).

A poem by Timothy Brewis

Three poems by Brian Cowan

Play the Game - an Australian poem of the First World War that has recently come to light.

Bring them home - Goliath Van Dorn (United States)

Tomahawk - a concrete "poem" by Richard Ball

Curtis D. Bennett -The case for human wars (and God) - A long, thought-provoking and cool examination of the nature and outmoded use of warfare in the 21st century by a veteran of the Vietnam War. Curtis D. Bennett was the first contributor of war poetry to this website and has contributed many outstanding poems over the years, first about the Vietnam War and then about Iraq and other conflicts. See, for example, the Iraq War 2003 page and the Vietnam War page.

Peter Kelly - a poem about soldiers everywhere

Michael Brett - two poems
(read more poems by Michael Brett on his own page. See page one of the website for the link.)

Donald de Loach

Videos of poems

Video poem by Suheir Hammad written following the Twin Towers Destruction.

Video: Egyptian poet, Kamal Abdel Haleem (Sayed Karwata) - two video poems about the Egyptian Revolution performed in Tahrir Square

Video: David Roberts - a video poem -The New Egypt, Tahrir Square

Video: Gerardo Mena - So I was a coffin

Also new in 2011, poems by Cheryl L Daytec who has a separate page. Link.



PEACE POETRY

Religions are based on scripture, which is mostly poetry. So it only makes sense that religious conflict must be resolved through poetry, and not through politics, negotiation, or war. I propose that all religious conflicts be redefined poetically, so that they can be resolved without bloodshed, winners, or losers. So let's sharpen our pencils, not our swords; send missives, not missiles; and apply our minds to metaphor, simile, rhyme, meter, and prosody, but not pomposity, animosity, ferocity, atrocity, or monstrosity.
  -  Hugh Mann

Brother

I'm not well
If you are sick

I'm not rich
If you are poor

I can't live
If you're not free

I depend on you
And you can depend on me

A brother is no bother
We all have the same Father

Hugh Mann


Hugh Mann, MD is a holistic physician-poet whose website, organicMD.org, promotes peace and health by publishing Peace Poetry. His work has been published in various poetry anthologies and medical journals.


A Brave New World?

If only we knew how to celebrate
The birth of justice, truth and empathy.

Our brightest lights? We don't just close our eyes;
We listen to the demonising lies
Of squatters who lay claim to Right and State:
Recharge the slaughter of the innocents.

Those that are left? What right have they to be?
Except to bear the blame for violence. 

"I" must become "we". No more "us" and "them".
 
The land that once was called the place of bread
Can still become what Peace and Mercy call
The vineyard of equality for all:
A haven for the living, not the dead.
Then Bedlam can be Bethlehem again.

Felicity Currie
Christmas 2011

The thousand-mile stare

Winding in a corkscrew of torque and pitch,
we plunged downwards from cloudless heights of blue
to roll seasick through steep banks and sharp twists.
Jagged shards of shadow and light stabbed through
our porthole views over Afghan plains.

As we landed inside the Helmand camp,
our wheels kissed the sand in metal washes of noise.
The troops rose clumsily and moved off the ramp,
swallowed from view by the sandstorm. Young boys,
wide eyes, plump faces, fresh combats, clean boots.

In this brutal patchwork of the Green Zone
it's one more unremarkable outpost.
Here, for six bloody months, far from home,
men dance with death and brush past the ghosts
who squat in the shadows of mud walls.

I twisted and squinted through the perspex pane,
but there was only dust, gravel, wire and sun.
I'd seen enough and I turned round again.
Opposite me, new shapes slumped, with their guns
laid casually over their knees.

We lifted clear to a steady hover
and then surged giddily to blue safety.
Your head feels squashed by the mounting pressure,
your ears pop and you grab straps to steady
yourself. And then we levelled and slowed.

I watched the soldier sat across from me.
His helmet was off. I studied his face.
His cheeks were hollow. Blond hair had burst free
in random clumps from his crewcut - no grace
the fatigue lines that etched his skin.

He had a week of stubble, maybe more.
He never looked at me, but I watched his eyes.
They hardly blinked, remained on the gunner's door.
People have told me that when someone dies
you can see life ebb and then seep away.

And these eyes were losing their light, fading blue,
not even the flicker of a dying flare.
Nothing seemed to register and I knew
that I was looking at the thousand-mile stare.

Simon Marr
Colonel Simon Marr, MBE, Royal Regiment of Fusiliers,
Operation Herrick, Afghanistan, 2007and 2010
From the book, Heroes. By permission of the author. See more about Heroes.

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War is like Tears

Wiping off the brook of tears

Flowing incessantly from her eyes

I pick up my baggage with heavy heart
Heaving a loud sigh of grief
She throws her hands tightly around my waist

There is still a lot more time for dawn to begin
My son - deep in his sleep

Moths huddling around the lamp
Colliding over the same lamp
Some spreading their legs injured
While others are already dead!

Few drops of her tears

Trickle over my boot

And shimmer at the brightness of light
I close my eyes

And open them a while

To look at the boot

The teardrops flowing from my boot
Had vanished somewhere into the carpet I think ‑

The life we lead as soldiers

Is like tears!

'Please do not go to the war

Let us go back to our own country'
'Don't say that, my dear!

I have promised the Union Jack - two times

How would I say

I am not going to Afghanistan?
It’s my duty to go to war’
Unknowingly my arrogance slips out

I think - of my dear old parents

I see - my sleeping child

My dear wife shed into tears
Uff!

How would my heart allow me

To go to war at this time?

There is a heap of dead moths

Over the carpet

I start hearing

Soundless music

Pouring an incessant river from the eyes

And, putting a garland of flowers around my neck
With her shivering hands,

She says:

'Return from the war

Like the way you are going today'

I feel

There are many things to say
But words don't come out
Getting speechless

I step out of my quarter

And slam loudly

The door of farewell!

Rifleman Naresh Kangmang
Royal Gurkha Rifles, State of Brunei Darussalam 2011

 

From the book, Heroes. By permission of the author. See more about Heroes.


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From Nigeria  -  about a recent massacre. See author's note after the poem.

Elegy for Jos

tell the sun
to set gently, gently tonight
to tilt on the mournful side of the plateaux

let the sun close its eyes
on the blood that fed this vale,
to cast a shadow, to veil my scar

jos, it is
a sad dusk tonight, and a waking sorrow
the stars mourn in the court of your skies

your lush is now a feasting field for vultures,
deserted and desolate,
aborted peace in the womb of harmony.

murdersome smokes shield your home tonight
may life return in the justice of tomorrow

Ibukun Babarinde,
Nigeria

This is a poem for the people of southern Jos, Nigeria who slept at a sunset of Saturday 6, March 2010, to wake to an ethnic cleansing in the morning of Sunday 7, march 2010.  The Nigerian government failed to stop the ethnic war that claimed hundreds of lives in less than a night.
Ibukun Babarinde writes poetry to seek socio-political corrections. Many of his poems are centered on the abnormal governance in his country, Nigeria. He is the author of Running Splash of Rust and Gold (poetry).

 

 

The Winds of Troodos *

Sometimes when least expected I feel you
the scent of pine resin hits my nostrils and memory
and for a short while I sense you dancing at my back
Welcoming and cool in the long warm days
Chilling to the bone in the dark frightening nights
Then once more I am standing against a landscape
painted in beauty, yet coloured in hate and cruelty.
Once again you carry the smell of fear in your flow
and in that one night the world opened its hand
to show me the ugliness and horror of humanity lost.
Then your sound became a cry of agony and anguish
to cut and scar a young soul for the rest of its days.
So that even now, in the small hours, my soul cries
though knowing, that down the years the horror grows less
with each terrible repeated painting of the scene.
Now, with hair as white as that, which caps your peaks
and my years written in deep lines across my face.
I remember the Easter Dawn at Kykkos Monastery
the alter with the crown of thorns and folded cloth
which brought such soothing to a frightened youth
there, for a little while, your moan became a prayer
Yet still today, within the dark hours, I pray in shame
asking forgiveness for a heart that learned to be hardened.

Bill Mitton

* The Troodos Mountains are in Cyprus. In the 1950s and early 60s British soldiers fought Greeks who were fighting for a Cyprus independent from Britain. At the same time Turkish and Greek fighters fought viciously against each other. British soldiers had a hard time there.

 

What need I the waving flags, introduced by the author, Bill Mitton:

I watch the young men carry the coffins of their comrades and once again I feel the weight on my shoulders as I remember doing the self same thing.  I prayed through my tears that before I died the madness would stop... I now know the folly of that prayer, because I now realise that whilst there are young men and women who believe that they are immortal, there will be politicians who will barter and trade the young's misconception without the flicker of an eye.
 

What need I the waving flags

I watch these old men march
bereted and badged

as I was in years long gone.
Though I understand
and will honour their need.
I will never join them.

I need no marching or medals
to do honour to comrades dead
the metal would lie heavy
upon my aging chest.

I find no honour in gravestones
the faces in my memory
are still happy and young
I would rather they were here
growing old, honoured by
their children’s children.

I need no military band.
I keep alive within my soul

the music of my comrades’ songs

They are my morning reveille
and my twilights taps 

What need I the waving flags
of these patronising politicians,
and hindsight’s patriots
when these self same,
cloaked in self interest, 
barter and sell the peace
hard bought by young lives,
whilst their casual neglect
of our  injured  and our widows
do such dishonour to our dead.

What right have I of medals
For I am here, aging still.
I hold in trust the memories of
such youthful, selfless, sacrifice
their smiles will haunt  me ever.
For as our young soldiers still do.
I have, in scaring grief, carried home,
brave men upon their shields.

Bill Mitton


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Young Sons

A mother takes down a photo
And she holds it to her breast
Just has she’d done the child it shows
The little boy she’d washed and dressed.

She remembers how his hair felt
His soft scent still fills her nose.
And one again she curses,
the path her young son chose.

With boyish smile, and happiness
he’d picked the shilling and the gun
she remembered still the fear and  dread
when he told her what he’d done.

Yet she’d smiled and waved him off
as only a  loving mother could
If God was good, her smiling son
would return as young sons should.

But then fickle fate, it knows no God
it makes its judgments  where it will
and IEDs  they don’t discriminate
about who they should maim or kill.

So young sons often come home
fulfilling all their mothers fears
Not with happy smiles and laughter
but, draped in flags and mother’s tears.

Bill Mitton

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Warface (These are actually words to a a very effective song)

I've had no work since I left school
It's all been closed round here
Stacking shelves or on the dole
Or be a bloody volunteer
My brother got his arm shot off
He can't go back and fight
He puts his rifle in my hand
He says I'll be all right

When first I joined the infantry
The training broke me down
They found the very core of me
And turned my life around
Terrorist or Taliban
They're just targets in my sight
You put the rifle in my hand
You tell me it's all right

Warface, warface
It won't come off no matter what I do
Warface, warface It's just a job
You know that isn't true

There's bagging and engaging
And blowing them away
There's dropping them and offing them
But there's a word that we don't say
No-one calls it killing
But it's simple black and white
I've got the rifle in my hand
Just tell me who to fight

Warface, warface...

When I'm back home and on the street
I'm a look-out on patrol
Who's that man? Watch that hand!
There are things I can't control
All those faces stare at me
Which one do I suspect?
You put the rifle in my hand
What do you expect?

Warface, warface...

Mike Reinstein
October 2011

Warface Song, Mike Reinstein

Mike's website: www.mikereinstein.co.uk

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The National Game by John Bailey

John Bailey is a soldier in the British Territorial Army serving in Iraq (2011).

About this poem. In this poem, which references both ‘Before Action’ by Lt W N Hodgson, MC and ‘In Flanders Fields’ by Lt Col J A McCrae, John Bailey hopes to draw attention to the current state of disrepair at Baghdad (North Gate) Cemetery, where amongst the general overgrowth and damaged graves local youths have established a football pitch.

The CWGC website lists 4,160 Commonwealth casualties in this cemetery, including those of Lt Gen Sir Stanley Maude and his Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force. The site also explains why, because of the enduring unrest in Iraq, the CWGC are currently unable to properly maintain it. Rather than being a criticism of the CWGC John hopes his poem will highlight the importance of what the CWGC does. He has no doubt that they will eventually rectify the situation in Baghdad.


The National Game

Neath dusty earth pitch and rusted goals
Long bleached under Mesopotamian sun
Lie several thousand heroic souls
Lost in ensuring our cause was won
So Maude’s 13th and colonial brothers
Rest amidst a nation still beset
Their own battles over, but not those of others
Eternal peace not quite found yet
Hussar, Poona, and Connaught
Bengali, Gurkha, and Fusiliers
Side by side they died as they fought
That way still after all these years
Yet arid Shamals blow no poppies here
Graves overgrown, even broken some lay
No singing larks and no hills familiar
Even Blomfield’s bronze now ripped away
Yet not forgotten these glorious men
Now resting where few heads are bowed
Families recall now as they did then
And all soldiers know the debt that is owed

John Bailey
© Copyright Oct 2011
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Remembering lost comrades
"Life and soul of the mess is a comment on how lost comrades are remembered and live on within their units long after they are gone, particularly whenever soldiers gather together in their bar or mess." - JB.

Life and Soul of the Mess

Take some time every now and then
Think back and say ‘I remember when’
You were as brothers you and they
Sent by your country into the fray
To a land of sun, dried dirt and dust
Where dollars may rent loyalty, but you built trust
Where from flowering death they eek out a living
Or take what they can from whoever is giving
You carried all you needed on aching back
Tabbing mile on mile awaiting the crack
As from a mile away a sniper takes you
Or the land beneath erupts to break you
Now you’re at home and carrying on
While others you knew they’re now gone
Their laughter is missed but their faces you spy
When asleep or briefly out the corner of an eye
So growing older don’t let memories soften
Drink to their names, let them cross your lips often
For all the stone and the brass, it counts for ‘ought
If we forget the names of those that fought.

John Bailey
© Copyright May 2011

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"This next poem was written as a response to those who protest at soldiers funerals." - JB.

Taking a Stand

I ask you to stand with me
For both the injured and the lost
I ask you to keep count with me
Of all the wars and what they cost
I ask you to be silent with me
Quietly grateful for our lot
As I expect you're as thankful as me
For the health and life we've got
I ask that you wish them well with me
All those still risking their all
And I ask that you remember with me
The names of those that fall
I expect that you are proud like me
Of this great nation of ours too
So enjoying all its freedoms like me
Support those upholding them for you
I hope that you are hopeful like me
That we'll soon bring an end to wars
So you'll have to stand no more with me
And mourning families no different from yours
'Til then be thankful you can stand with me
Thinking of those who now cannot
For standing here today with me
At least we show they're not forgot

John Bailey
© Copyright May 2011


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The Return of the Civil War Soldiers

After Gabriel had blown his horn
He returned with Artie Shaw:
 
And the dead awoke in the puzzled soil,
Naked and staring at the horseless earth:
Bald, treeless,
Without dung, lace or carriages;
 
Pylons, little brick houses
With televisions jabbering
And cars parking.
 
Swordless and cold,
They looked for their homes
And lost beliefs like blankets;
 
And everything that had once seemed so much
Was nothing.

Michael Brett
2011


Fiancé in Afghanistan

Step by step they take great care,
Fear and frightened eyes red with despair,
 
Shock and horror to hear “Man Down”,
So many soldiers fall to the ground,
 
Yet one by one they struggle through,
Scared and thinking he may not pull through,
 
Soaring temperatures are rapidly rising,
Scarce special medics is not surprising,
 
With no mercy just bitter aggression,
Shooting the injured is the Taliban’s mission,
 
Please save our partners, family and friends,
Bring this war to its final end,
 
Our hero, our soldier, their brother, their friend,
Our honour is with you as you battle the end,
 
Back at home we will wait alone,
To hear you slightly on the phone,
 

Unsettled nights and shattered dreams,
Imaging all those nasty scenes,
 
R&R I hope is soon,
To have our candle lit dinner under the moon,
 
Come and gone now back to war,
To fight the Taliban and find their core,
 
Wrapping parcels and special gifts,
The happiness it brings and the joy it lifts,
 
To all the soldiers that made through the tour,
Solute to those with us no more,
 
No game or sport can compete,
The strength our soldiers go to defeat,
 
Queen or president the fact still remains,
Our soldiers out there is just insane.
 
Abi Townsend

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Gerardo Mena, US soldier  -  More about him below his video.

Gerardo Mena is a decorated Iraqi Freedom Veteran.  He spent six years in Special Operations with the Reconnaissance Marines and was awarded a Navy Achievement Medal with a V for valor for multiple acts of heroism while under enemy fire.  

 

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.

Gerardo Mena


This poem won first prize in the 2010 War Poetry Contest sponsored by Winning Writers. Author Gerardo Mena received a $2,000 award. Copyright is reserved to the author. He can be contacted through the editor of this website. See Contact page.

A video presentation of the poem appears below.

Video presentation by Gerardo Mena of his poem, So I Was a Coffin

About Gerardo Mena

Gerardo Mena and freinds, US Army

My name is Gerardo Mena. I am 28 years old and I'm a decorated Iraqi Freedom Veteran. I was in Special Operations with the Reconnaissance Marines for six years and I was awarded a Navy Achievement Medal with a V for valor for multiple acts of heroism while under enemy fire.

When I completed my military enlistment I returned home to Missouri and began taking courses to complete my Secondary Education degree with an emphasis in Language Arts and I began to take poetry classes and found that they helped me deal with many of the events that I witnessed while overseas and in a war zone. It was not until I met Brian Turner, the acclaimed author of Here, Bullet and the newly published Phantom Noise, that I had the confidence to know that my words mattered.

I still have a year and a half left until I complete my degree but I've begun some student teaching and was just recently hired to be a wrestling coach at the local high school. I know that teaching is my calling now and that preparing high school students to lead productive lives will be my life's work. I feel incredibly blessed to also have the love and support of my wife and two-year-old son, and the many loyal friends that I have made on my life's journey so far.

As for the picture I've attached, I'm the guy on the right. This picture is my favorite and has special sentimental value because the guy on the far left was a great friend that was Killed in Action on January 23rd, 2007 while we were in Iraq together, and his death sort of opened a "floodgate" for my poetry. The picture is of us getting ready to provide security in Mongolia right before President Bush lands for his Asia visit in 2005.

For more information on Gerardo "Tony" Mena and his music, visit www.facebook.com/tonymena.
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After the Twin Towers - Affirm Life

A poem by Suheir Hammad, born in Jordan of Palestinian parents and raised in Brooklyn, New York about, among other things,  the aftermath of 2001 Twin Towers destruction, her brother in the US navy and the demonisation of a people because of the misdeeds of a few - title uncertain (First Writing Since?) - posted on Youtube 2008. Contains strong language. Video of a Def Jam poetry session, New York.

 


A poem from Richard Ball

Tomahawk concrete poem

Four poems from Afghanistan and Iraq


"An ex-officer," who wishes his name to be withheld, sent these moving poems in September 2010.

He wrote " I left the Army this April as a Captain. My last tour was Op HERRICK 10 in 2009, after which I wrote these poems. My experiences on two tours of Iraq have influenced me though as well."

Coward

I move among the people eyes down
I carry no visible scars for proof
I returned blending into mediocrity
I know how I remained secure whilst
I spoke to those playing roulette on horrid ground
I heard their destruction
I imagined their terror
I see their scars-altered bodies now
I see the pink, raw and crumpled
Freakish folds of repaired skin
I see the surgeons work
The politician’s choice
The people's lot
I stand in the shower physically whole
I touch what they have lost yet
I cannot touch what I have lost
I do not know exactly what it is or where it was
I move among the people eyes down
I feel a coward.

An ex-officer


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Stretcher case

The helicopter is on the way
An example of our benevolent capability
I speak to the pilot on the radio
Briefing him on the casualty
The medics fret and fuss
Sincerely by the heli-pad
The stretcher is laid down beneath
The father's tired old eyes just sad
I look down at the stretcher case
Into the young boy’s brown eyes
What they say seems unfathomable to me
He certainly does not cry
He looks back almost impassive
But that cannot be so
For his bandaged right leg is
Blunted shorter, never to grow
What the medics have done
Almost seems neat
Where his foot should be now
Like a mummified head complete
Is he thinking about the future?
About his tomorrow
We gave our today, but that only seems
To leave behind his sorrow
He just lays there, no tears
Tougher than I will ever be
Mouth closed, face set, awaiting
The next step of his tragedy.

An ex-officer


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They don't seem to realize

Your family think you’re being miserable
Getting annoyed with sullen moods
It’s understandable, getting annoyed yourself
But it’s hard to do much about it
For it comes stalking at any time
Relentless in its continual pressure
Squeezing out continual questions of
Imagined scenarios replayed, reconfigured
There’s no point which is the bitch of it
But it all just keeps looping round and round
Weaving into the mind’s sinews and crevasses
Like gnarled rotted roots they spread out
Wrapping tentacles about the seething nerves
Anaconda like squeezing air out of your mind
Leaving it weak, dull, devoid, worn through
So that sometimes you just stare silently
Running on empty in your head
Which others assume is a sulk
Perhaps it is
Although it is indeed hard to say much
Thinking of dead children
The bags of scooped up flesh
Which you don't have to see to comprehend
Oh no, the secret is
The knowing misery can still get out and find you
War’s a vivid thing and it likes a vivid imagination.

An ex-officer

The Last Supper

A supper where we shared a table
Stands out from many others
Remembering your humour, polite bearing
Explaining that insane job with zeal
I sat wondering how it must feel
Almost asking the unquestionable
Might it be a matter of time with the numbers?
Perhaps you had already thought this through
Yet you never deterred in protecting others
All the way to where you could not turn back
From the blinding hot light demanding sacrifice
Taking away the scruffy cheerful calm
Leaving another picture in a morose mosaic.
(Written in memory of Staff Sergeant Olaf Schmid, killed 31st October 2009 Afghanistan)

An ex-officer


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A poem from Timothy Brewis

Timothy Brewis explains

I am currently Head of English at Cheltenham College having previously served as an officer in 1st Battalion, The Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment. I was not deployed to Afghanistan, but a number of friends and former colleagues have been; I am very interested in depicting through my poetry their experiences of this conflict.

Here is an example:


T1

With that first blast,
storm of scalding teeth,
I was spun back sidewards,
falling face down in dust.
And as the smoke pall
spread and silence rushed
in from dark places, I left
myself and rose to a vague
height, looked down on
a mangled form, strewn
across the fallows we trod.
Slick hands fumble-fluttered
over ragged, stumped limbs,
tugged at charred, smoking
cloth-flesh-fuse and tried to
staunch the flow that stained
the ground black and daubed
those about with their colours.
Nothing would be the same again.
NOTHING would be the same again.
With a moan I fell and turned
and found myself staring
into eight ball pupils, features,
each, pulled taught over bone
frames, names on the tip of
my swollen tongue then
lost in the leaden flood of the
morphine, lost in the lift and ebb
and the thump of distant rotors.

(c) Timothy Brewis – 2010

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Three poems by Brian Cowan

Brian Cowan is an Instructional Designer, Centre for Teaching and Learning, University of Windsor, Ontario, Canada  

(a poem about the Vietnam War Memorial Wall)

The Wall

The wall brings us together. The wall keeps us apart,
A granite demarcation of our lives and of our hearts.
It rises from the depths of dust and to the dust returns
A focus of reflection for those who come to yearn.

At this wall of pained remembrance, we together stand alone
Reflecting on the names of those etched deep within the stone
Reflecting on what we've become from what we left behind,
Memories etched in flesh and stone, forever intertwined.

Names set deep in granite are forever meant to last
Reflections change and fade away in journeys to the past,
Fleeting life and ageless death join at this sombre pall.
And once more we are brothers as we gather at the wall.
               
B Cowan


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Soldiers’ Ground

This piece of earth so green and lush is hallowed ground to me.
Though you may see abundant life, that isn’t what I see.
I see politicians’ lies and Generals’ poor command,
And loss and tears and sacrifice, that sanctified this land.

Though trivial geography to those whose feet it bore,
Its brave defenders challenged us for who would want it more.
Tooth for tooth, eye for eye and crimson blood for blood,
Every anguished inch we bought, exchanging flesh for mud.

And when the battle ended and our prize was made secure,
When we beheld what cost us dear, our victory seemed unsure.
Smoking, scorched and barren earth, devoid of any life,
Scarlet-cloaked with broken men, the residues of strife

Now grass thrives on the sweat of those who cursed and fought and bled,
Flowers root in sanguine soil, perfume decaying dead.
Your white and towering monuments that glisten in the sun,
Remind me of the bones they hide. For you, the job is done.

You stand and make pronouncement at the valour that was shown,
You call this land a symbol and you claim it as your own,
But political diplomacy and Generals’ great reward,
Were purchased with the struggle of those men who took the sword.

You dare to stand among us now, pretending at our loss,
To know the true and deeper meaning of a soldier’s cross.
This ground is ours, both friend and foe. We bought it with our all.
While you stood last and cheered us on, ignoring duty’s call.

Be gone from here pretenders for you do not have the right,
To share with those who sacrificed. Those who fought the fight
Your gains are built on their remains. Your glory we hold cheap.
Your presence here an insult to all those who sleep the sleep.

Your posing and your flowery speeches, eloquently trite.
Charades of ceremony are but mockery in our sight,
The victor and the vanquished bled to hold this land so dear
Be gone, for this is soldiers’ ground. You have no business here.

B Cowan


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The Blemished Lambs

And God said unto Abraham,
Find a pure, unblemished lamb,
And take him to a place that I appoint.
And there an altar will be built,
To sacrifice him for your guilt.
Redemption, by his blood, will I anoint.

This sacrifice must perfect be,
The sins of all eternity,
This blameless creature dies to bear in shame,
For only may the perfect save,
Mankind from eternal grave,
His sacrifice exonerates your blame.

But, poor and blemished lambs are we,
Slaves to fallibility,
Our soldiers’ blood, we shed on altar block.
Where perfect lambs should spill their blood.
We sacrifice our modest good,
And bleeding, leave our sins upon the rock.

B Cowan


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PLAY THE GAME

This newly discovered poem of the First World War, written by a member of the Australian infantry force, is strikingly similar in ideas to hundreds of poems written in England at the start of the war. It seems remarkable to me how closely Australians identified with the British cause.  - DR

PLAY THE GAME

 Can you read your daily papers
And not realise the fact
That you're wanted in the trenches,
To keep those lines intact?

If you can, then you're mistaken,
Though you may not be to blame;
So let the facts get home to you
And go and play the game.
 

Our lists of killed and wounded
Show our losses very clear.
Can't you go and fill the gap, lad?
Go and fight for all that's dear.

Can't you hear those voices calling,
From the trenches far away,
Can you hear that cry unheeded
While in safety here you stay.

Can you picture our brave women.
And our little women, too
Who are mourning for their dear ones
Who have given their lives for you.

Can you see those picture posters
Which adorn almost any wall
And remain unmoved a moment,
Hearing not a brothers call.

Can you not believe the message,
Do you fail to understand:
In sheer despair they're asking
Come at once and lend a hand.

Can you picture our Australians,
Facing odds of ten to one,
Ruthless, cruel, barbarian aliens,
Vulgar Turk and brutal Hun.
 

Don't you see that without help
To relieve their awful strain;
Can't you see that without help
A brother man is slain.

Can you picture some old schoolmate
Who, when fighting at the school
Could always safely look to you
A sort of golden rule.

To come to his assistance
When he felt that he was done
Now can you leave him on his own,
Against the brutal Hun?

The battle that he is fighting now,
With your help he'd win,
So don't delay another day
Or maybe he'll give in.

And if he does, God help us all:
God help our women dear!
Remember Belgium, can you
Stand a repetition here.

Answer 'no' for this I feel
You will make response
To bear the brunt on any front.
And go, and go at once.

Your country needs you, every one
The call rings clear and true:
Though some may falter and not heed.
Can you - my lad - can you?

Bugler Gordon Merrell. Wellington C. Coy; 54th Battalion. 14th Brigade. A.I.F.; on Active Service Egypt – sent to this website from Australia by Gordon Merrell’s great nephew.

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THE CASE FOR HUMAN WARS (AND GOD)

In the old days¸ one of the weapons of war was God,
An unseen, Supreme Being who lived high up in the sky,
Who was omnipotent and all-powerful; a Supreme Ruler
Of the tribe of people on earth who worshipped him;
Who held him in reverence; who offered him sacrifices,
By burning baby lambs or little calves up to “God,”
Called in those days, a “sacrifice” to their God.
Thus “pleasing,” this powerful, invisible sky-dwelling entity.

Back then, every “tribe,” had their own separate God,
Sort of a special, kindly “Father Being” who favored them,
Who would lead them to victory and triumph,
In their slaughtering of fellow human beings in battle.
These Gods of old, were real Gods, not Wimpy Pussys!
They were “Warriors! Valiant in battle,” who went forth,
Like a real man of war; a fighter; who marches bravely,
At the head of his Army, (Ps.68.8) and why not?
God’s are supreme beings, they could never be hurt!
Never be shot with arrows or clubbed senseless;
Never be killed; not even wounded for that matter!
Being immortal has its advantages in war!

As Israel basically wrote the Old Testament,
Small wonder they emphasized the role of “their” God,
As being the God of all creatures, great and small.
The Israeli God, kind of set the criteria, the “bar,”
For the rest of the world to follow; to blindly accept.
For to not to do so, well, then you were “God’s Enemy,”
Then the Israeli’s would have the authority to declare war,
To seize your lands; to kill your people all in God’s name.
This “rule” applied to everyone, no exceptions!
Not even other Israeli’s who worshipped idols,
Or “graven” images, as they were known as back then.

The reason for these “Draconian” measures,
Israel had entered into a covenant with God,
Kind of like a treaty, a formal agreement with God,
Whose terms left them “vassals ” owing God allegiance.
With God’s laws of warfare, exclusively granting Israel
God’s holy and unilateral permission to kill everyone else!

But Israel could be destroyed if they flouted the covenant;
Did not adhere to worshipping the  “Big Guy in the sky,”
Even though God was allegedly the creator of all humans,
Obviously, some humans were superior to others,
Some of them were “chosen”, they had an “in” with God!
Dare we mention the possibility that Israel’s “God,”
May be a little prejudiced?  Perhaps, a bit discriminatory?
Seems a little unusual for the creator of the universe,
Not to treat all his “creations,” equally;
To favor some over others, what’s that all about?

Back in those times, there were also “rules of war,”
Ways for the sons of the wealthy (or for the smart)
To avoid the draft, and not die in war:
1) If you built a new home, but not “dedicated ,” it.
2) Planted a vineyard, but had not tasted its “fruit,”
3) Betrothed a wife, but not “consummated” the union, (as back then;
one didn’t “sleep around.” unless he was King David.)
4) Anyone who was “fainthearted,” which meant
those, who might weaken the army’s morale.

These conditions would thusly “connote,”
These ancient, chosen armies of Israel back then,
Were made up of homeless men as one part,
And successful farmers who could both plant and reap!
Also those real Men who had already jumped the gun,
Had already jumped the bones of their betrothed,
Ah, yes, these were the “strong-hearted,” real and true men,
Who couldn’t wait to get out there and kill people!

Those who didn’t join; who didn’t go,
Were probably men of bad carpentry skills.
Who just couldn’t seem to get that new mud-house
Quite finished to perfection, like their wife wanted it!
Or others who may have been deliberately bad farmers;
Perhaps reluctant grooms who had bedroom issues
About sleeping with the rich fat girl, yet somehow,
By doing this, they avoided combat and getting killed...Duh!

And last, but not least, those of “reasonable” intelligence
Who saw no point in marching off to a senseless war
Out on a battlefield, to be slaughtered in “God’s name!”
Yet, all of these manly-man traditions are handed down
Generation-to-generation, and some even prevalent today
In our own Military, which tries to exclude ‘Gays”
As not being “fit” to serve in the military;
To not being able to die for this country in its service.
(Item #4 in reasons to exclude)

Back then; the rules of war were simple, barbaric;
Were exceedingly cruel.  Before storming a town,
Its inhabitants were offered unconditional “peace” terms.
If they refused, then all of its inhabitants were annihilated.
One way to halt the spread of “idol” worship!
In towns far away, only adult males were killed,
While the young women and innocent children,
Were taken back to the homeland, as “spoils” of war.

The Israelis had three kinds of war then and still used today:
1) Wars “Commanded by God! ”  Similar to the Iraq war in 2003 whose
costs have exceeded 3 Trillion dollars so far.
2) Obligatory Wars caused by Enemy aggression:  (America going to war
with Japan in 1941)
3) Optional Wars of political significance only. (Sort of like UN wars
in Korea and Vietnam and Afghanistan)


As throughout our short, violent history,
The United States would use these same excuses,
For our “necessary wars, such as the Indian “Wars.”
Our wars with Mexico; Puerto Rico, with France,
With Spain, England, and the Philippines.
For the purpose of expanding our borders;
Justified by our outrageous claim of “Manifest Destiny .”
For our selfish, economic gains and to boost the economy,
Boost the bottom line of big business and the railroads.

These excuses for wars may have been justified
When the world was a like a three-layered cake
Consisting of tribes of hunter-gatherers fighting over land,
For new fertile grounds to graze herds; raise their crops,
Or going after other civilizations for what they had,
Lands and spoils, which the greedy, selfish tribes wanted.
Over the millenniums, these justifications for war
Became outmoded, as Israel faded, and was no longer
Quite as dominant as it may once have been.

In the middle ages, it all rapidly came apart,
As payback descended upon the Israeli tribes,
As army after army, kicked their collective Asses,
Conquering armies, of note: The European Crusaders,
Muslims in Ethiopia, Southern Russia, and the Caucasus.
Where time after time, without their ancient Hebrew God.
Who had Alzheimer’s; conveniently forgot ancient “Pac’s,”
Those once useful “covenants,” so helpful to justify war,
Suddenly did not work anymore, in this “new” world,
Unfortunately, this era finally culminating in the slaughter
Of five million innocent Jews, cold-bloodedly murdered
In German Concentration camps of World War-2.

The Bible, was a book “of its time,” provided guidelines,
To explain the past, and to a degree, the present,
To control a people and bend them to “God’s Will.”
But these old reasons and lame excuses for war,
Have long become history, as war rapidly evolved;
As war caught up with the changes of time,
Unlike history, which has not; which cannot.

To truly understand war, one must acknowledge:
War is an organized, violent activity
Waged mostly by men of the same tribe; in groups.
War is a “mutual” activity, with the aim
Of defeating the enemy or avoid being defeated oneself.
War is conditioned on the hope for victory;
Or at the least, self preservation; survival
Without either of those, war is organized suicide.

This all changed with the advent of the First World War,
When modern technology overcame ancient tradition.
A time when charging British Infantry went up against,
The German .50 caliber Machine gun @ 600 rds./minute
The equivalent to at least 80 rifles of the time.
Imagine the carnage of death as men charged machines,
Who mercilessly mowed them down at will,
As they mindlessly, hopelessly charged enemy lines,
Ordered to do so by stubborn, old General’s with swords.
To needlessly lose their lives, to a new, Industrialized War,
Which had somehow, permeated, the weapons arena!

Of course, some countries can be caught up
In “delusions of grandeur,” usually demonstrated
By large armies marching in “goose-step,” on Main street.
As armaments and weapons, are paraded before the crowds,
As entire countries and their people are caught up
In the excitement, in the lust, and their fervor for war!
As were the Japanese in 1941, a small island country
Who attacked the greatest industrialized and soon to be, Really mad at
them, and a totally pissed off nation
Who dropped two atomic bombs on them, downtown!
With deliberate and intentional malice aforethought,
Resulting in the greatest annihilation of a single people,
Ever known on this planet, before or since!
With the advent of guerrilla warfare;
Modern armies are no longer guaranteed of winning;
No longer is our crushing might, the answer to conflict,
This change was cruelly documented in Vietnam:
Proven beyond all doubt against Russia in Afghanistan.
Proven once more in this ancient, stone-age country today,
Where men wander about in robes and beards,
Herding goats; growing opium and beating women,
Are living proof a small, determined country can hold out,
Against the largest, the United States with all our power.
As in our beleaguered attempt to make “might”...right,
As we fall once more, flat on our ass!

The conduct of war emerges, evolves, relentlessly changing,
The formulas, the standing Armies, Air Forces and Navies,
Their importance dwindles and fades into the past,
As technology, reduces the importance of manpower,
Of naval armadas, fleets of jet aircraft; of military power.
Military forces are miniscule, compared to the advent
Of atomic weapons, which even and flattens out,
Which levels the playing field for all.

One push of a button takes away need of standing Armies,
Takes away requirements for vast Navy’s and ships,
Aircraft carriers, convoys of submarines; cruise missiles,
Huge fleets of massive intercontinental bombers.
Those days are history; are fast becoming but memories.
Yet America seems stuck in the past, spending trillions,
On weapons systems; already obsolete in today’s world,
Paid for with money, we do not have and must borrow.

The United States and its Military, seem to be stuck
Back in history; back in times that once were,
We believe and think we are still back in the good old days;
Those wonderful, powerful days of yore, which never were!
Those days of power, of triumph, we never will see again,
For those days of any nation trying to be “King of the World,”
Are forever gone...have simply passed away into history,
And will never come back.

Perhaps it is time, we all grow up,
For a change...

Curtis D. Bennett, March 2011

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A Day at Liberation Square - Poetry With translations - يوم في ميدان التحرير



Egyptian poet, Kamal Abdel Haleem (Sayed Karwata)

Response to the historic events in Tahrir Sqare, Egypt, 11 2 11.

The New Egypt - Tahrir Square, 11 February 2011 by David Roberts - a poem, sound,scene collage. (Followed by radio news from that day.)

Egyptian Revolution, November 2011. The poem, "The New Egypt - Tahrir Square, 20 February 2011" expressed the idea that a positive transformation of life was being celebrated a little prematurely. Sadly my doubt was justified. See the picture below and the Amnesty report of 22 November 2011. Link here. - DR.

Tahrir Square,the generals crack down, Nov 2011, Amnesty pic


A Brief Victory
Introduced by the author:

My name is Peter Kelly, I was a soldier stationed in Malaya during the communist guerrilla emergency in the 1950s I am now living in Andalucia Spain with my wife
The following poem could be about any soldier in almost any campaign at almost any tim
e. 
 
A Brief Victory
 
A shadow behold crouched by a tree
Smoke barely seen from a lit cigarette
The soldier scans him and aims carefully
As soon as he fires he's filled with regret
Yet he looks to his seniors for recognition
of his practiced skill and proud success
His ego runs high with this his first action
Then suddenly feels a pain in his chest
 
He opens his eyes as though in a cloud
To a figure all shrouded standing in light
He struggles for reason and listens intently
'Worry not son', did he hear the words right
'Soon have you back with your own mother
you've earned your rest you can take a bow'
His days now protracted from one to another
the only companion is his wheelchair now

Peter Kelly


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Kicking a Mortar Bomb 

When I hear birds singing then it that seems nothing can go wrong. 
After two days with the mortar crews,
Death spoke to me like a sentry: I was watching
The bombs leap like salmon from the mortar tubes
And-there’s the wonder of it-hanging for an instant
Over the muzzles;
And the explosions drummed and slashed the throats
Of sheep and sunsets.
 
One night, crossing the fields-with soup!-
I kicked the dormant snout of one of our bombs
That had slid across the wet grass on its belly,
Unexploded.
My steel toe cap clanged hard on its detonator:
Halt, who goes there?
I ran and ran.
 
Sometimes when the future seems like a cold swimming pool-
And the world a plank-
I think of everything as bombs; as steel webs of cogs and pins,
Straining to explode.
 
Then, I open the windows and listen to all the birds in London
Flying from their parks and gardens to sing to me.

Michael Brett

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You Can steal From The Dead

You can steal from the dead, slide
The rings and watches from their hands,
And with the self-same elegant Rolex sweep
Their reputations, partners, plans.
 
You can steal sparks from the restaurant dead.
On the battlefield tablecloths,
With honey words and silver spoons.
Diagram the war-your genius strokes-
To some wide-eyed girls and your brother’s boys.
 
You can steal from the silent dead,
By pressing more silence on their heads.
You can finesse their stolen lives
In post-war bedrooms, after-dinner jokes,
Into your great victories on their losing slopes.
 
And if in some friends’ faces,
Or Sunday lunchtime doze, they look
At you accusingly. It’s not the dead.
It’s just part of you stirring.
 
They won’t come back.
You can steal from them.
You can steal from them
‘For evermore.’ 

Michael Brett

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Poems by Donald DeLoach

My name is Donald DeLoach I have been in the US Army for about 10 years I have served as an Airborne Infantryman with the 101st Airborne where I have deployed to the Balkans to include Kosovo during the KFOR 3A rotation and conducted missions in Bosnia With IFOR I have deployed to Iraq during OIF-1 and 3 and have done some missions in Afghanistan as well.

What we become

Sometimes you can’t help but cry,
Standing still as the world passes by,
Looking at the faces of those you love,
Glistening like stars in the skies above,

You can help someone or lead them astray,
Go to war or stay home and play,
Live a normal life in the eyes of some,
But only you can see what you’ve become,

I see flaws in my life, sadness and pain,
I feel the path I chose left me insane,
But destiny may have it and I cannot change,
This life I have I cannot exchange,

So many nights without rest or sleep,
Yet in this journey this pace I keep,
I will die some day and tears will fall,
Look back to me as my writings recall,

The pains I have will never fade,
Nor will the memories of the mess I made,
My path of destruction in the building of my life,
The victims of betrayal like blood on a knife,

My name is Donald DeLoach a man of many,
I killed my first man before I was twenty,
I watched his life bleed before I could drink,
I did it without hesitation or even a blink,

Terrible things I have done,
Without a father nor even a son,
Yes sometimes you can’t help but cry,
As sometimes inside you things will die,

Our lives we take for granted,
As if neglecting the seeds that we have planted,
Forgetting to watch as our bodies will grow,
And in time we become our greatest foe,

I have made so many sacrifices in my time,
I look back from an impossible mountain I chose to climb,
The view so great but I must go on,
Remember those things that are soon forgone.

Donald DeLoach

What if

Had I had looked the other way
Would I be alive to write this today?
Would I be strong enough to be a man?
Had I had not gone to such a foreign land?

What if I chose to be a kid?
Would I be happy with life and the things I did?
Or would I still cry at night from the memories of the past
Would I have walked away from the car bomb without a scratch from the blast?

These questions I ask myself as I look in the mirror
Wipe away the steam so the picture becomes clearer
Without regret I cry at the scars on my face
The tare in flesh I can never replace

Without a son my memories will fade
As I cross the fracture in time unafraid
What if I looked the other way?
Would you remember me and the things I say?

What if I saw what should not be seen
Which created a monster or some beat machine,
Or created a promise of love and life
Let me live to see my children grow beside a loving wife

So intertwined with chaos and peace
One day I wish the madness would cease
Would I look the other way or focus on you
Would I walk towards tonight and stand tall and true?

The choices I make with each step I take
So strong I am yet my muscles ache
But I will because fate requires me
I will live because my mind is free

Had I had looked the other way
Would I be the same with different words to say?

Donald DeLoach


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Bring them Home

Goliath VanDorn is from the United States. He writes, "Now that the U.S. has enter a third war (Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya) I wanted to put down on paper how, with every soldier sent to war, so many different people are impacted.
This poem tries to give a voice to these people – the sons, daughters, wives, etc."


Bring Them Home


Bring home my father
so I can hear his voice as I step to the plate
“eye on the ball son”

Bring home my mother
so she can brush my hair
and listen to my sorrows

Bring home my sister
so we can stay up late into the night
listening to music and sharing secrets

Bring home my brother
so the bed across my room
is no longer empty but calls out
“Good night bro,
try not to be so ugly tomorrow”

Bring home my husband
so we can grow old together
holding hands on the front porch swing
in the cool of the evening

Bring home my wife
so I can breathe again
knowing she’s safely in my embrace

Bring home my daughter
so I can walk her down the aisle
and have the first dance

Bring home my daughter
so I can have the hope of a
grandchild to wrap up in my arms

Bring home my son
so I can make him his favorite meal
and watch him eat it

Bring home my son
so the family name
does not end
here

Bring home my father
my mother
my sister
my brother
my husband
my wife
my daughter
my son

Let the war be done

Bring them home

Now.

Goliath VanDorn 2011
United States


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