The Sounds of War
Deep into the night, the darkness
across the foxhole whispered,
Come a little closer. Three hours into the listening
post and James had already broken the silence
for small talk. I’ve got something for you.
In the end, he only wanted someone to listen
to him, not listen for the enemy approaching
or for the morning muster, don’t listen
for the sirens or the horn that marks the retreat,
Get your ass out of there, private.
Don’t listen for the shells whistling overhead,
or the small silence as they stop hissing towards heaven,
a slight pause in their climb before they come screaming
back to earth, don’t listen for the thunder
of napalm and smoldering trees, don’t listen for the squawking
of Vietnamese, or the captain’s orders –
Move this, private. Stand here, private. Shoot him, private.
Hate this whole damn country, private, and grow to love the hate,
private, love to hate every last one.
Don’t listen to the clap of thunder, the trickling rain,
don’t listen to the boy – seventeen, his brother forged his signature –
crying in the hole next to yours, don’t listen to the silent counting
in your head once you’ve pulled pin from grenade –
throw on three or four? – don’t listen to the scream
of shrapnel striking skin.
The true war story
is never about war. Instead, it’s about how the machine of war comes spinning across an entire
nation – sucking up boys into its geared jaws and spitting them out to the front lines – a great
metal devil spouting the national anthem, covered in stickers sloganed We Support Our Troops and Freedom For The World. The true war story is never about war, but about the beauty of the flourished sabre slicing limb from torso, the trajectory of sniper rounds traversing hundreds of yards, the tail of a tracer slipping through trees and brush, the thunk of round striking human. The focus is on the plunging of bayonet, the swiftness with which each stab is executed; the focus is on the hum of machinery, the cacophonic boom of rifle releasing shot after shot next to your ear, the prattling of a machine gun in the distance. The focus is on the beauty of the parry and thrust of grappling men, waiting for the lights and cameras to see that this, this is war,waiting for the eyes of the protected to focus, to sign their own names, own their signature, agree to all of this. The true war story is never about war because it’s too busy being about all of the men lying on beaches or in jungles, covered in the dust and grime of foreign countries, crawling through collapsed formations and companies, Take me home their eyes now plead, Take me home, they scream, ducking in trenches and foxholes, I wanna go home.
About the Author: Christopher Barton is a senior Creative Writing major at Stephen F. Austin State University, working on his thesis in poetry and looking to graduate in December of 2017.