How many boys who loved playing army, Who loved pretending to be shot tumbling down summer hills, Who loved pretending to be dead as their best friend checked to make sure, Or who loved pretending to deliver their last-words soliloquy wincing in imagined pain or lost and dreamy, Find themselves years later trapped on the battlefield Hearing the voices of enemy soldiers Searching for corpses to mutilate or wounded to torture to death? What man remembers those idyllic boyhood days then As he lies still as possible Trying not even to breathe, hoping beyond hope the enemy will pass him by, Knowing if he’s discovered they’ll cut off his cock and balls and stuff them in his screaming mouth And then, before cutting off his head, disembowel him before his eyes? Ah, thousands of boys and men have met this end, Millions perhaps by now, so many people so many wars. Do they go to a special heaven set aside for all who die like this? Restored to the bodies they had, The memory erased of that insane end to the story of their lives? Do they still get a chance to play army with joy And pretend to be shot and pretend to die After they meet this end? Do they still get to thrill in pretending to be dead after they die? After this hideous, inhuman end will they laugh and wrestle their best friend again?
Editor’s note: When this poem was published in our May issue, the last two stanzas were inadvertently dropped. It appears here in its entirety.