I keep watching YouTube videos
of the Russian war on Ukraine
of drones bombing soldiers
in their trenches, trucks, and tanks,
taking you to the moment of impact,
to the dark-gray smoke rising,
and then cut away, the aftermath
left for others to see, like lieutenants
who must record a body count, like
the medics who must mark the dead
and try to mend mangled men, like
loved ones who must sit by coffins.

I keep watching footage of cities
destroyed, reduced to rubble, empty,
except for the snipers, concealed,
guarding buildings unfit for use,
claiming territory while retired
military men stand by colored maps
to explain where the lines are drawn,
what tactics might be deployed
and what weapons might lead
to a win, and how it all might end,
while politicians in full bluster
speak of patriots, duty, and freedom.

I keep watching afraid I’ll return
to Vietnam, to the war of my generation,
as the medic who couldn’t fix the endless
bodies arriving from the field, filled
with foreign objects designed to rip flesh,
to stop the enemy dead in their tracks.
I keep watching remembering how
frightened faces look and agony sounds,
how those who fight forget the why,
how grunts pay the price for others’ power.
I keep wondering what has yet to heal.
I keep watching still trying to see.

About the Poem

The poem speaks to the horrors of the ongoing war in Ukraine and, more generally, the toll war takes on soldiers.

About the Author

Ronald J. Pelias has spent his career working with the fusion of performance, literature, and qualitative research methods in an ongoing hope he might find a momentary explanation, an emotional pause, a place of temporary rest. His most recent book is Lessons on Aging and Dying.

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