war of waiting – for dVerse

When cordite-green is stained by mud and blood
hear — slipping — sound of boots that hug our soil;
with faces cut in stone and ash, we wait
for orders to retreat or even worse — attack!
But still a little longer — wait; October rain
is trickling down my back; that woolly itch,
when lunch is shared with rats, as pits are dug
and filled with those that never will go back
to where the smell of harvest soil is clean.
But still we wait, consumed with — hungry — blight;
we wait in sun: we wait in hail; in hell,
we wait for final mortared martyrdom;
we wait (in boredom) ready to be killed or kill
we wait and wait; until that day when finally
we cross the no-mans land and — aiming well —
we shoot the mirror image of ourselves.


Today Gabriella inspires us to write war-poetry at dVerse poetics. To me war has always been about destructive waiting. Maybe it will never be again like those wars of the 20th century. But the image is strong in me. I choose blank verse reminding of a Paradise lost.
October 28, 2014

58 responses to “war of waiting – for dVerse

  1. Very well done — very powerful. And very much like the American Civil War where here we’re observing a sesquicentennial and the inevitable glorification is going on. Terrible trenches at Petersburg.

    Was really struck by this part: “and pits are dug
    and filled with those that never will go back.
    to where the smell of harvest soil is clean” —

    Smell of death would have been in the soil for ages.
    Great write, Bjorn.

  2. Nicely penned, breathing tragic realities of war…no one is wining, they never come home the same and how could they…shooting that mirror image of themselves. Reminds me of my uncle when he came back from WWII…a broken man.

  3. Interesting that J is reminded of the American Civil War while for me your poem evokes WW1 and its trenches. A very vivid and powerful poem, Björn I am sure the long hours waiting ‘to be killed or kill’ amind rats and wounded comrades caused a lot of trauma, an issue that was probably not dealt with when the soldiers eventually went back to civil life and were expected to behave as if nothing had happened.

  4. nice…great last line…the mirror image of themselves….the same scared young soldier coming out of their foxholes….yes, not much different…..war is waiting…interesting…

  5. I was not quite so aware of the way WWI was fought, of the horrors of trench life, until visiting some of the sites of Belgium & France and then doing some reading. I don’t think my textbook learning from school gave me the picture that I have now. I think the waiting, the rats, the rain, the pits with the dead, must have been hell. The conclusion of your poem gave me a start, but oh so true. When one finally does face the enemy, looking at a mirror image of oneself – wow. So true, the ‘enemy’ had the same fears, the same experiences, and probably didn’t want to be there either. Powerful war poem, Bjorn.

  6. Agree with Brian, your last lines are gut-punch powerhouses of utter truth, for not only do we kill our brothers but we slay ourselves, the sweetness of our own souls; add to this the machinations of religion, with God first on one side, then the other, or both; add to this the war-mongering politicians & the profiteers of industry–and it is hard to remember it is not them who occupy the fox holes, it is the cream of our families, our youth. Great take on the prompt, brother.

  7. Bjorn you just wrote a classic of WWI poetry, a genre that already stands out on it’s own as one of the best. Aside from the excellent description, rhythm, story I noted the factual detail of the old scratchy woolen uniforms. That detail really made it for me – the rats, yes, but the fact really brought it home. Very well done. Not sure if poetry gets any more resonant than this.

  8. My goodness – I can only imagine war, but you have done a good job in what I imagine it is – an organized bore of stupefying dimension. Excellent.

  9. The waiting is hellish, I can only imagine ~ This reminds me of a story when two enemies finally saw each other in mid-battle WW2, they stopped and let each other go ~ The author shared his insight that when he saw the “enemy” face, it reminded him of himself and people he knew, scared and very much frightened of war ~ Good one Bjorn ~

  10. You really put me there in the trenches and although they don’t always show the clips of the fighting like they used to on television, I can remember the visuals that came over from Vietnam..of course, the many books written of war..the toll taken. Solid and poignant write

  11. The agony of wait – so powerful a note – and it reminds me the life of those who are posted in the border of sensitive region – every day is like an wait for the war….

  12. i have heard of soldiers talking about how waiting for action was worse than the fighting itself…and, yes, one just like him on the other side, at least in the big wars of the past. i am not so sure anymore.

  13. True most of the world still fights wars like this and will for some time to come.. while our sanitary methods of excluding our carnage excel.. while yes.. reducing humanity to robots of death…

    And the mirror image is so true.. as real humans have an aversion to killing themselves.. in the same genetics of others..

    That separation part is also a fad that started some 12K years ago or so.. with the development of agrarian ways.. and tools instead of humans…..of course including tools of death.. that too.. separate us further and further from humanity in robots ways.. of living AND dying….now.. smartly and sadly enough….

  14. the textures of war you’ve written in each line… the drama of waiting I’ve never thought about… thanks for bring as close to war and still being safe in our own homes

  15. Hey Bjorn–in some of our more modern wars I’m not sure we do shoot the mirror images of ourselves. But certainly in WWI, they did. It always seems to me to be just the saddest war somehow. So very very sad. Thanks. k.

  16. Perfect! For me, war will always be about waiting and weather. My Dad was in the Second World War (he landed on the beaches of Normandy, actually – though I don’t think he ever quite got over that one). He wrote a lot of poetry about the war (waiting and weather) and one of his poems (my favorite of his) is called Through the Tent Flap: “The oak trees are weeping all around; Drip, drip, drip on the sodden ground, The canvas is wet and the wind is cold, And I feel crippled and weary and cold.”

    It goes on and on to describe pretty much nothing but wet uniforms, jeeps, motor cycles, more wet tents and ends with “That’s all I can see of this damn war, at the crossroads in forty-four”. I think he would have liked your poem a lot.

  17. You write so powerfully and movingly on human rights, the environment/nature, and war, Björn. I very much admire what you do, and that you do it on a just-about-daily basis is staggering, too. Very impressive.

  18. A soldier once told me that war was 99% boredom and you’ve captured this among the more active ingredients. Well done Björn .

  19. I’ve just discovered your blog, stumbled upon this poem and find myself… speechless. I think all has been said in previous comments, but in case you can hear it once again: this poem is amazingly powerful. Humbling and thought provoking.

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