War


Why do we keep on marching out to war?
If every fiber in us cries for peace,
Someone tell me what are we fighting for?

Foot soldiers in the clutch of foreign shores
Lie buried where the fire will never cease.
Why do we keep on marching out to war?

Good sailors pace their last on ocean floors,
Their bones dissembled by the shifting seas.
Someone tell me what are we fighting for?

Brave airmen, who in winged battalions soared,
Turn into ash for winds to be appeased.
Why do we keep on marching out to war?

Shoes, sandals shed, behind these temple doors,
We weep for sons and daughters, on our knees.
Someone tell me what are we fighting for?

My enemy, my enemy – no more
Lay arms down at our feet, with me, for peace.
Why do we keep on marching out to war?
Someone tell me what are we fighting for?


61 comments:

  1. "my enemy, my enemy-no more-" I really was struck by both the power of your poem and the desperation: from both the subject matter and perhaps the form. I read this hours ago and I am still haunted. So very moving.

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  2. "Their bones dissembled by the shifting seas"

    I find this line... and the airmen turning to ash the most powerful. The 'shifting seas' works well in my mind as a metaphor for politics... which leads to war... and thus dissembled bones. Masterfully written.

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  3. I've always wanted to write a villanelle, but hesitated because I knew that, no matter what, I could never approach Dylan Thomas' 'Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night".

    I still haven't, of course - but I did finally write a villanelle, around a subject that had been simmering in my mind for a long time.

    I do thank my friend and fellow poet Courtney Ray for pushing me on this. Without her, this poem would not have been written.

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  4. Excellent villanelle, powerful sentiments.

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  5. Short link: http://bit.ly/s4war

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  6. Anonymous11:01:00 PM

    In the late 60s a teacher friend asked each 12 year old in his class to make a poster for Brother Hood week. One very difficult boy submitted his poster with two Words ~~ Fuck Hate ~~ :) Your images evoke a history of images for me which still beg answers to the questions you ask. If I were a cynic I might say more.

    38harmony

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  7. The difficulty of the villanelle is, of course, to keep each verse fresh despite the repetition of lines. You've succeeded wonderfully in doing this. It's a very powerful, emotional piece. By having such high standards, such as Dylan Thomas, your own work will continue to soar to similar heights.

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  8. Thanks so much for the kind words.

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  9. The sounds of marching drums roll through your villanelle and it plays as protest - the songs of my life strain through it - Baez, Peter, Paul & Mary, Bob Dylan, Woodie Guthrie, Tracy Chapman, Eric Clapton, and yet this is as musical and has more force. Move over Dylan Thomas, there's a new voice in the land!

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  10. A tight and effective villanelle on a subject that is often neglected. You've also managed to work in some fine descriptive lines and images between refrains as others have noted. Excellent piece.

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  11. You depict many sad realities of war and call for peace poetically, through vivid details of the departed. Indeed, an excellent piece.

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  12. wow - this was an amazing and tight write
    ..if every fiber in us cries for peace.. strong - and also loved the repetition of enemy here ...my enemy, my enemy - no more. it's like a double statement - you use the enemy twice and one would think - yes - enemy - and then the dash and no more - just wow

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  13. I wonder too...well done.

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  14. Amazing tight lines and flowing rhymes!

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  15. Good questions. No good answers I'm afraid.

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  16. So many great lines in this wonderful villanelle but the two that really stood out for me

    Their bones dissembled by the shifting seas

    My enemy, my enemy – no more –

    Such solemnity, undertones of my favourite villanelle and in fact my favourite poem - Dylan Thomas's Do Not Go Gentle - Good Sailors, Brave Airmen.

    This one will stay with me.

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  17. I have no answers..only prayers for peace.

    This was moving, beautiful, heartfelt and powerful.

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  18. This is amazing...the imagery is very powerful and moving...i can almost hear the battle field.

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  19. My friend sent me an example of a villanelle
    and I have tried my hands with it, but without success.
    To write on a subject such as War is a good idea.
    A Villanelle helps you to ask the question
    "What are we fighting for" which is asked several times by us all.
    Concerning senseless wars
    You have done a beautiful job!

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  20. Great villanelle - a haunting cry of the soul - I can hear the drums and the weary tramp of boots.

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  21. An excellent villanelle for sure and the war question must continually be asked from one generation to another....war is something that should never just be accepted....bkm

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  22. You make the form sing your message, a strong and much needed one. Thanks for speaking out.

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  23. My enemy, my enemy – no more –
    Lay arms down at our feet, with me, for peace.

    Here, here. An idea worth marching for.

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  24. In form, you have presented us the perfect villanelle, while at the same time, presenting us the most perfect of unanswered questions. We are species designed to self destruct. The masses are crying for peace, yet, we see every day how well we are being heard. As long as men and woman are willing to throw down their lives for their country, there will be the power hungry ready to take advantage of the sacrifice...oh my, I'm starting to rant! A wonderful, compelling, thought provoking write.

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  25. Powerful poem. The frustration and sadness ooze from your words. It is a harsh reality that seems to be going nowhere soon.

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  26. great piece sam...you stir the emotion well...why do we do war, well it seems our only idea when it comes to peace unfortunately...thought provoking for sure...

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  27. Superb villanelle. Not much short of Dylan Thomas and his last drink made that poem for his dad moot. This is powerful, persuasive, brilliantly written. Could be an anthem for the Arab Spring - should be one for the planet. Thanks for sharing.

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  28. Thank you... you've done wonders to the prompt.

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  29. poignant share and love these lines:

    Shoes, sandals shed, behind these temple doors,
    We weep for sons and daughters, on our knees.

    nice to meet you~

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  30. I ask the same barefooted question. The answers are too painful. People will march for change only when compelled by desperation.

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  31. Terrific poem, Samuel. I've missed connecting with you and hope you're doing well. Join us this Friday-- I've begun a new meme, http://fridaypoetryfest.blogspot.com and we'd love to have you link up. xxxj

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  32. incredible job.



    invite you to join our poetry picnic today,

    1 to 3 random poems are welcome for first time participants, you can also write for our theme,

    best.

    hope to see your participation.

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  33. Sam, this is so very tight!

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  34. nice man....the imagery of the navy guys bones in the ocean...the airmans ashes...really strong....excited about your book as well man...i could ask similar questions...war seems to be our only answer you know...sadly

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  35. Beautiful poem - the transmuting of the soldiers especially vivid. k .

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  36. stunning! each stanza a powerful reflection on the ills of war. I enjoyed the way you touched on different types of forces, but especially how you brought it back home with the last tercet. your two questions came together quite perfectly at the end.

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  37. Sam, Is it possible that you could write anything better than this villanelle? The simplicity of the form reinforces your message a hundredfold. The poem brought me to tears.

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  38. Powerful and good poem. War has no winners....

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  39. The sentiment is the most powerful piece of this poem. The form serves the message very well.

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  40. As others have said the simplicity and rhythm of this form enhances the message of this heartfelt poem.
    Great example of a villanelle.

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  41. "Why do we keep on marching out to war?
    Someone tell me what are we fighting for?"

    The question for the ages, yes? I like this formatted with the double questions at the end. Enjoyed this immensely.

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  42. Stunning poem, villanelle or not. Why can't we just all get along? Because rich old men start wars and send out the young and poor to fight and die as cannon fodder to increase their profit margins; always been that way. One small thing, /winged battalions soared/ might be better served with /winged squadrons soared/; usually battalions don't get airborne of themselves, they are merely transported by air; and yet, as a poet, you have license to bend the rules for sure!

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  43. Your poem definitely asks the question that many are asking. I am sure each generation asks the same. The repetition strengthens the message, does not let us forget, holds us accountable. I enjoyed your prompt, Sam.

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  44. beautifully crafted villanelle on a difficult subject indeed.

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  45. Anonymous8:38:00 PM

    Nice going, simple to the point and asking of us all. You rhymed the two repeating. I did one of these villanelles when I first started here and it was a challenge. War just needs to end so we can have peaceful villanelles. gardenlilie.com

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  46. Fine fine writing, as always, Samuel. I especially love the way you used 'dissemble.'

    And sadly, the marching never seems to stop.

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  47. i immediately knew that i read it already...my enemy, my enemy - no more...this really stuck with me...and i have no explanation why we do just stupid things like war...i wish we wouldn't... an excellent villanelle sam...and thanks for hosting tonight

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  48. Tell it like it is. Like it. The questions as statements. IF it wasn't for all the aide needed, much needed, because of wars, imagine the help we could provide to the world if their were no wars. Very kool.

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  49. The form certainly delivers your message emphatically, Sam. I admire its seeming simplicity.. and why does each generation have to ask the same question? Thanks for a great opportunity to dust off a villanelle... :)

    Did you also think of wording your 2nd refrain like this:

    Someone tell me what we're fighting for

    Just interested in your thoughts there, especially for the meter.. having a question is always a good idea I agree.

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  50. Wonderful to revisit this one, still love the turn after my enemy. Thank you for an inspiring article!

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  51. Sam, Really a perfect Villanelle. Has everything one could wish for when using this form. Outstanding in all regards

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  52. Very powerful - and an excellent example of the form. Now maybe someone will come up with a rational answer, but I doubt it!

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  53. All excellent questions. It is said that villanelles are best suited for use with subjects that are going nowhere (no timeline) - this static state is no more apparent than in our inability to move forward from warfare. Nicely done.

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  54. I also was reminded of he "peace songs" of the 60's...the words are all so familiar yet you gave the them fresh meaning with the use of the form..bravo!

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  55. The form works in asking questions that want answers from the silence. And this is one we all want answers for

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  56. Don't compare your effort with DT, Sam, I don't compare my 'Cento' or "Twenty Nine" with Tennyson. That you've chosen war as its subject makes it all the more powerful. It seems to me that the key to the successful villanelle is achieving two refrain lines that never tire for their repeating, as well as 'a' and 'b' rhymers that enable full expression and no wasted words. "War" makes great reading, again and again. Also "War and Ablution" is now on my reading list; the title alone resonates loudly for me.

    P.S. I am sending you a DM on Twitter.

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  57. This is one of the poems I return to again and again. Will you be blogging it for Blogging for Peace day on November 4th?

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  58. Enjoyed this again the second time. As protest song, it resounds even more on the eve of the election. If only...make love, not war was the anthem of my youth and yet here we are at war still/again. Great work as always Sam!

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  59. oh yes this is how i feel. peace, no torture, no drones killing families, it would be wonderful if all the people said this and it would stop!

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  60. as my sons approach the age of consent, your question looms ever larger. ~

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  61. as my sons approach the age of consent, your question looms ever larger. ~

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Thanks so much for visiting my site, I'm grateful you've taken the time to read. If you liked this selection, you can download a sampler of (or buy!) my books at the following links...

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