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Dept of Defense:



Unanswered Questions

Give me back the man I married, not
this shell-shocked version, staring
somewhere off into the distance, afraid
of his own shadow, of the moon,
of arms reaching out intent only on caring,
distrusting all who come too close
to the thorn embedded in his heart.

Where were you when I knelt, praying
"Bring him home to me alive and well, not
battered, beaten, incessantly dreaming
of ghosts dressed in black pajamas, grinning...
slithering through jungle grasses, thick-as-thieves
patiently waiting to hear him screaming,
waking sweating, merely to do it all again"?

What love is this that kills his spirit, not
that I should denounce you, seeking revenge;
but that I would understand your reasoning
that I might nurse the wounds buried within,
to help revive his faith, severed and dying...
devoured to this day by the maggots of war?
What love is this that slowly kills his children?

What, my God, were they fighting for?


Like a Thief in the Night

I look into your shining eyes....
The proverbial window to your soul
And I see within it there
A treasure far greater than gold...

A look of purest innocence
With no memories yet of war
No visions of death and dying
Beyond our own front door

Those deer-in-the-headlight orbs
Tug on my yearning heart
Wishing I could take them back there
To those days before the park

When all they saw were love
Compassion, faith and hope
Your bright and shining future....
Not the end of your worn rope...

Tethered ‘tween living and dying
Unsure of which road to take
All hope from your heart draining
That living would any difference make

No one cared...or so you thought
If you took your own life or not
Your eyes had seen too many dying
Lying upon the field to rot

Too many wished you dead, too
Hated you for killing their own
For burning their homes to the ground
Wishing you would just go home

You fought to preserve freedom
For your homeland far away
But were spit upon and wondered,
"What happened to yesterday?"

"No one can ever know", you said,
What this soldier’s eyes have seen.
Until he becomes like the living dead,
No one can know what I mean."

You lost your faith on that foreign shore
Saw it disappear into the hollow eyes
Of the buddy who died in your arms
While your prayers echoed on silent skies

Gone now is that childlike innocence
That treasure I see in your eyes today
Staring back at me from your photo there
Taken before man’s inhumanity stole it away.



I should have paid more attention
so many years ago...
but I just didn't want to listen...
I just didn't want to know.

The conflict was finally over
and I didn't give a damn
'bout all your new-found buddies
when you spoke of Vietnam.

I didn't want to listen then
to things that happened there
"What good would it do?" I asked
to your sad and distant stare.

I said, "Why can't you let it rest?
Just forget about it now.
You're back home in the USA.
It's all over anyhow."

You clammed up tight and went to bed
as I swept the kitchen floor.
I thought 'twas only just the wind
when I heard that slamming door.

When morning came, I saw you there
just staring at your gun.
"Oh, Lord, No!" I thought, "Not again!
What's done is done is done!"

"Dwelling on it ain't gonna help, you know,
and all that drinkin' neither!
Why don't you just go for a walk
and give me a little breather!"

Without a word, you started for the door
then turned to me as if to speak.
I said, "Well? What's the matter now?
You've been acting strange all week!"

You just shrugged your shoulders, turning.
I didn't notice the door...
how slowly it closed that day...
how you turned, looking back once more.

I should have noticed the look in your eyes
when I glanced back at you...
Turning away, I didn't notice
you had taken your bullets, too.



"Unanswered Questions" has received the IWVPA's prestigious...

"Double Tap Award for War Poetry".

Click on award to visit the archives.

International War Veterans' Poetry Archives

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