By Edmund Janas

Wars should be so far off

the young soldiers grow exhausted

before ever reaching the fight.

I only know war

through my old man’s nightmares –

The hell he survived, then battled

alone for decades after,

before I could try to help him.

Close as ragged breaths

and raw, sleepless skin,

wars are never far off.

So when I hear out-of-shape, gray warriors

talk tough from armchairs and podiums,

I know they’d shatter first

under the brutal truth of combat.

War means mules overloaded, tumbling

down cliff sides. “Dear John” and “Dear Jane” letters

tear-stained on bloodsoaked grass.

Mile after mile of soul-sucking mud,

the unforgettable reek

of friend and foe.

It means screaming regrets, aimless,

into cold night air, night after night.

Not some blowhard’s call to action

as the politicians calling for it

licks chicken grease from their plates.

My Pop, who couldn’t hurt a fly,

was a machine-gunner on the front line.

How do you make sense of that?

He wanted me to see Italy

in all its peacetime beauty,

after he’d only known its warzones.

So I went, because he’d been to hell

and didn’t want me to join the tours.

That’s why, when I hear soft folks

talking tough on wars, I know

their kids aren’t shipping out

with the cannon fodder poor.

And those who clammor for invasions?

They’ll send our youth to die, not their own.

War is never clean, and never far away,

despite what drone-drunk leaders say.

Don’t glorify that graveyard march

unless you’ve carried the scars

or helped to shoulder the burdens

our veterans bring home.