Volume 31, Number 1

War Ghost

“It should break your heart to kill.”
            —Brian Turner

 If this poem tried to really take you to war
you would not want to follow it—it's not because
you don't want to kill like the almost human
soldiers, the popular belief, who lust for blood—
it's because you'd learn there the sanctity
of skin, after it's peeled by an explosion, sausage
made of muscle, display of bone, how a street's
a sudden place of bodies that armored soldiers
move through, returning fire, where lifesaving
care's secondary, afterthought, once the smoke
clears and one of the bodies walks up urgent
and insistent like you've never seen before,
holding out a missing hand, just a citizen caught
by the edge of the blast, face strangely embarrassed
to ask for help like the at-bat kid in Little League
whose pants dropped, and you rip the velcro
of your medical pouch, learn to screw down 
a tourniquet ’til blood stops.

If this poem became a ghost it's because it took you
to war 'til you, we, are a bundle of shock that shouts
"No" so loud the spell begins to break and we
become compromise, cooperation, balm, peace
now a wildflower that grows everywhere.

—Steven Croft