Saturday, February 2, 2008


Now that our soldiers are also bloggers, and their contributions to the blogosphere have become legend, I'd like to invite those same soldiers and bloggers to submit poems. Contact me (or leave a comment) and you can be a Guest Poet Warrior on my blog! I'm waiting to hear from you and give your poems a voice,

This applies to loved ones of Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine, and Coast Guard--PFC Jamie A. Goldstein's mother submitted the poem that started it all.

While I'm waiting for your poetry, here's a propitiatory offering of mine:

The Known Soldier

You are invisible
As true courage so often is
But we know your faces.

You are the son
Who puts on boots when the dawn
Opens its eyes,
You think of your mother
And those school mornings when
She told you to tie those laces—
It was snowing then,
It’s a steamy swamp today,
Bivouaced in a country not your own,
You write another letter home.

You are the daughter
Who straps on gear the way
You once tossed on a school backpack,
Your dad watched you walk into school
With parental words, “Do your best.”
“You can do whatever the boys can do.”
He never imagined, and hides his heart
Without success every time you call home,
That one day you’d shoulder freedom
Along with the men.

You are the husband and the wife
Who pairs a wedding ring with dog tags,
Sends words and prayers on missed anniversaries,
Thinks, in briefings and when poised
To enter that mosque, apartment, or hospital,
Of a colonel on your doorstep
Bearing a folded flag and starched face
To your beloved, whose own face
Spurs you on to survival, to honor
Even as you prepare to give your life for duty.

You are the grandson or granddaughter,
Who wishes for those stories of how Grandpa held
For forty-seven days (Grandma says it was forty)
Without sleep and with the grace of God,
All the soldiers in his unit, gone now,
Watch over you, as Grandpa does, proud
That the spark of passion for his country
Lives on in his blood and the breath you’re holding,
Saving like Grandma during the Depression
Until you can hear their voices again.

You are the sister and the brother
Once play-fighting in the backyard,
No Mom and Dad to call a truce this time,
And isn’t that your sister’s favorite sweater
Or your brother’s cherished Rolling Stones albums
You never dared borrow, sent in a care package
Glued by love and packed with faith—
Only in distance across oceans and deserts,
As close as if you still shared a bedroom,
Can you feel the preciousness of this bond.

You are the former student
Of a professor who knows well that the words,
The gentle prod to excellence, are only possible
Because you fight, and sacrifice, and build
Classrooms so that frightened girls, tearing away
Oppression and hate, can learn for the first time—
In-between faculty meetings and lesson plans
Your teacher reads the paper, scanning
With grammar-correcting eyes for your name,
Knowing that in the exam of life, you’ve earned an A.

You are the Known Soldier,
The people you leave behind are monuments
To a life lived fully, unrestrainedly, even with rifle drills,
Daily reports, chain of command—within the orders,
Duties and small moments of soldiering, you find
Your own freedom, shared by example with the frightened,
The poor, the defiant, the tortured, the oppressed.
The people you leave behind are our testament
To an existence too often hidden by your own heroism,
But love can never be truly invisible.

We are your faces, we are your voices
Proclaiming as loudly as your deeds
That you are the Known Soldier,
Loved by all, forgotten by none.

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