Antiwar Poetry Series

In college I took a class on Apocalypse Now, the movie. This poetry series was written as a class proejct.

A letter – solitary, plain and cold,
and outwardly without the face of death
so many found, whom these like letters told
of “duty” (which would take them to their rest).

A tremble in the hands that once did bear
a child, as now in that child’s hands is borne
a bit of news which mother’s love has feared
since even from before the child was born.

A moment of uncertainty before
a child’s face which only honesty
should have to show conceals the fear which tore
into a heart which has yet fear to see.

Those minds could understand yet only some
of Life’s creative irony to come.

Far distant, in an office well removed
from that small family, which will smaller be
when one is gone to do a good unproved –
defend the principle of being free,

yet free only to die for freedom’s sake
(and willingly perhaps, because young minds
are not free from ideas which zealous make
and blind from seeing all as humankind) –

a man sits with the awesome power to send
such letters by the thousand as he might
yet does not (perhaps cannot) comprehend
the magnitude of sending men to fight.

The hugeness could more clearly be perceived
if letters sent, by senders were received.

Ages ago, man had not the same force
of ideas and abstractions he could use
to make his own condition much the worse
by cold manipulation and abuse

of ideas for which we give ourselves praise
and hold ourselves in highest of esteem
yet which do our civilization raze
which we see not, and never might, it seems

Millenia of subtle sophistry
have cultivated an idea of peace
that it is yet another end to be
sought by, ironically, non-peaceful means.

Peace is worth violence, we oft are told –
‘tis a misunderstanding all too old.

An ounce or two of paper under ink
Small seeming, and with no pretensions grand
Not the apocalypse that one would think:
this subtle one can fit into a hand.

Without much weight material in kind,
When backed by force of patriotic bent
and by the cause of “freedom” in the mind
it can move men to other continents.

In places distant, so too are the goals,
that from a higher power bold descend
and make good men lose sight of their own souls
for while life ending, yet life they “defend”.

Life is too precious to become a cause
that justifies us taking life in wars.

Onto those other continents men go,
and not yet even men too many still
but rather boys whom something huge doth sow
into the ground, there always to be still.

And yet from that ground, fertilized with blood
doth never grow what many words would claim –
it seems mankind stands where it always stood,
the spoken one-time causes still the same –

for borders on a map move almost naught
while leaders claim the heavens whole to move
and when one decade passes what they sought
has changed again, futility to prove.

A constant struggle waged across the earth
to gain some things of questionable worth.

The same young man some mechanism chose
To be for some great sin or other one
of many sacrificed or wasted souls
was taken and now has set foot upon

a lonely place, though present on all sides
are those whom he has learned to hate or fear
though same as he (a same which color hides) –
the difference created by the seer

attributing to those he does not know
characteristics far beyond the scope
of humanness, and so to fight he goes
not against a person, but a “slope”.

Old ideas warp the lens through which we see
and seem from basic human musts to free.

An adage often passed over our ears
is that first lost in war is innocence,
which, said by decent people through the years
is meant as an appeal to human sense.

In the sorrow on its face, though, is concealed
the opposite of what we first present
the hints of a hushed reverence not revealed
for that which is no longer innocent.

We say that we at conflict are dismayed
for death and mayhem kill the stuff of youth
yet youth, we think in our hearts, must be lost
or else by the world’s truth we would be tossed

and yet conflict itself makes up that truth
so in a trapping circle we are stayed.

This boy commits a spirit-numbing act
of violence that otherwise would be
a crime of worst proportions, not a fact
of day to day existence, of a “be”

that should not have to be two thousand years
since, we are told, a sacrifice killed death
and surely our defilement of it wears
upon all gods, who draw a sighing breath

in sadness at the plight of unbound will,
and sadder still for somewhere in it all
sincerity is couched yet even still
although misguided, nothing learned from fall.

So sure, each one, of ideologies,
yet each “shall not” becomes a “shall” with ease.