It’s more true than not
that veterans trend right when it comes time to vote,
but it’s presumptive to think
there are no liberals among warriors.
When one has seen what war brings,
you do not equivocate.
You either say it was worth it,
which justifies what you did
and makes the loss of pals easier to bear,
or you say never again
and switch off the TV set.
You’ve heard this jingoism before,
responded to it with your person.
And because you lived to tell,
you should tell it. Because
subsequent generations need,
even if they won’t heed,
the perspective you bring to the table,
to the argument that war solves problems.
This death-and-dying business
is all (and always) about vanity,
from the young soldiers who think
themselves bulletproof until they’re not
to these old combatants
sitting in this waiting room,
the ones who know shit from Shinola
but say nothing; their silence, complicity.
They’re all wearing those ball caps
that tell you what ship or division
they served on or in, which war was theirs,
and if that’s not look-at-me, what is?
With rheumy eyes and faulty ears,
they watch and hear the latest call
for an incursion here, an invasion there,
but their lips stay sealed.
It’s hard to admit that our friends
did die in vain, but must our children
and theirs do the same?