The letter home arrives to a flatfooted father whose Uncle had never spoken of sitting in a hole in the mud, curled into a ball, helmet and teeth and hands clattering to the tune of incoming shells.
And the letter arrives from a man with one arm who cannot shake with his right.
The father does not go hunting next season;
He buys his meat all winter from the butchers with the widows, and they smile hollow smiles, smiles that will fill themselves with time and the spring.
Somewhere a soldier dies without permission
And three old men will never forget his name although they know new recruits only by the name Green until they’ve proven they can survive a thing or two.
Somewhere a child soldier dies without permission;
A stray shot while boiling oranges still hard,
atrocity and addiction and aversion and attack, attack, attack.
No less a good soldier, no field of white concrete crosses, no etching, just the abandoned campsite,
the scattering of warm empty casings,
empty villages, crowded refugee camps, dead men running through the night to the nearest well
And pickup truck headlights and muzzle flash
hollow bellies, helpless mothers, eyes that have seen now unblinking, and old men not worth the bullet.
No such thing as undisturbed sleep
No such thing as a dull machette
No such thing as a good war
from Somewhere a Soldier Dies Without Permission, by Bill Johnston