Art Works Blog

Poems for Veterans Day

Why does poetry seem like the appropriate gesture for this moment when we stop to say thank you to the countless numbers of men and women who have served our country, sometimes at the cost of their very lives? Perhaps it's the way the form cuts away what's extraneous to say only what is urgent and necessary. Or perhaps It's something about the way poetry forces us to stop and pay attention. You cannot do anything else while you are reading a poem or you'll miss it. Whatever the reason, here are several poems that offer a space and the time to reflect as we pay honor to our country's veterans. (Click on the title to read the full text of each poem.)

"Battleground" by William Trowbridge

"Those nights I heard shouts from the dark
of my parents’ room, he was back down
in his foxhole, barking orders, taking fire…"

"At the Vietnam War Memorial" by Robert Dana

"…we’ve come to find
your brother’s name, etched
in the long black muster
of sixteen years of war—"

"Thanks" by Yusef Komunyakaa

for the vague white flower
that pointed to the gleaming metal
reflecting how it is to be broken…"

"Dulce et Decorum Est" by Wilfred Owen

"Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs…"

"Phantom Noise" by Brian Turner

"There is this ringing hum  this
bullet-borne language  ringing
shell-fall and static this  late-night
ringing of threadwork and carpet  ringing"

"The War After the War" by Debora Greger

“…he’d take out a small gray notebook
and show his eldest daughter
how, in pencil, in tiny hurried script,
he kept the names of those who died around him.”

"Spoken From the Hedgerows" by Jorie Graham

“If death comes, friend, let it come quick.
And don’t play the hero, there is no past or future. Don’t play
the hero. Ok. Let’s go. Move out. Say goodbye.”

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