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War(d) Stories




They were all war stories, really,

              each tale told us, 

                          each report.


We were just recruits, green in our white,

             ignorant of the code in which 

                          the captives couched their urgent messages.


Prisoners of war, these weary veterans:

             stripped of their clothing, names, civilian selves,

                          known by the numbers fastened round their wrists

                                       or by the enemy who had laid them low.  


They are bound and bounded 

             by hollow chains of poison-pumping plastic: 

                          friendly fire.


Escape is dreamed of, schemed and crafted but

             evanescent.  No one evades recapture 

                          or, finally, execution.


But we’re too raw to recognize reality: 

             ready to rally, eager to exhort, prepped with platitudes, 

                          we still expect to triumph.


We forget the Alamo,

             Appomattox, Anzio, 

                          ignore inevitability. 

                                       We reassure, we nod and smile, 


But we are only comrades, not commanders. 

             Our war stories, still unknown, 

                          will end at last, as these do, 

                                       with unconditional surrender.

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