The smile of a man-boy

When forgetfulness-green shrouds
ash-songs of trench-muddy soldiers,
When gangrene and blood’s been ploughed,
and sown into wheat, may we, beholders,
remember when breaking our bread
the smile of a man-boy ending up dead.
May we never forget that his reason
for joy wasn’t his country, but seasons
constantly changing for that girl in his bed.

French Reserves from the USA

A 55 word poem for the word Muddy at toads. Also linking up to Poetry Pantry

June 8, 2019

33 responses to “The smile of a man-boy

  1. It was rough for the guys, many were fighting for their country, I believe yours was too, it was where his girl lived. I didn’t fight, I didn’t go for my country, I went because I got drafted in peacetime. I did learn a career, after five years I got an engineering job with experience and a 43 week Army school in lieu of a degree.

  2. “When gangrene and blood’s been ploughed,
    and sown into wheat”… I walked and toured Antietam and this is literally what happened (might be corn, though). These faces in this photo look a bit older – I saw one form D-Day – just boys – broke my heart. This is such an amazing poem – and in 55 words! Well done.

  3. Fighting in the mud has now very much been replaced with the drone warfare that certainly saves life The better option is more of avoiding conflicts and uncalled for open warfare!


  4. may we, beholders,
    remember when breaking our bread
    the smile of a man-boy ending up dead.
    This poem gave me chills from head to toe, Bjorn. lest we forget those fallen in battle so we can be where we are today.

  5. I was a pre-teen in WW2 and had sadness surround me as uncles never returned from the fighting. Those that did return found it difficuly to talk about.

  6. This poem brings home the impact of war. So many young lives lost under such horrific circumstances. Chilling reminder!

  7. I think this is very lovely, Bjorn. I like the inventive “forgetfulness green” in the first line, and how your imagery grows from muddy/murky to more crisp images towards the end. It has a cinematic feel. ****Just a note, trash or treasure as you like….but not all Man Boys fought for a girl in their bed. Many were homosexual and fought so they could see their lovers after the war. This month – LGBTQ Pride- might be a good time to do them honor too!****

  8. I was hit by the sense of green, first growth and innocence, smelling fresh and new, turning to gangrene. And the beds become graves, where man-boys are planted like seeds, only to grow green once more. Lest we forget.

  9. awesome poem! yes, those smiles are seldom for country or the generals. i remembered on a grueling five-week exercise overseas, when my thoughts were of home and the people back there, i always managed a smile.

  10. “may we, beholders, remember when breaking our bread the smile of a man-boy ending up dead,” this is incredibly powerful in its portrayal of the times of war, Bjorn!

  11. Short and bittersweet. You depict the tragedy of war and the sadness of wasting our young ones on battles instead of love.

  12. You have set down in words, the unadorned truth, here. Forget the lofty rhetoric of the non-combatant politicians … not wanting to be seen as weak … I think, is what many a man-boy sent to war, would have perceived as the reason for their presence there (if, indeed, they had enough self knowledge (given their youth) to articulate any reason for putting their life on the line).

    The cadence is this poem, is fantastic … really well done … very compelling … it works so wonderfully with the content, as to truly lift the piece to perfection. Everything about it, couldn’t be better. The writing here, is just that good!

  13. Tremendously thoughtful and powerful. Apologies for getting political, but also far more meaningful than the poorly researched throwaway speech that my country’s so-called “president” made on D-Day. I apologize to the rest of the world on behalf of my country for Lord Dampnut.

  14. This wrings the heart. Like Old Egg, I was a child in that era. It was noticeable then and later that the men who did come home never spoke of it – by which we got some sense of how terrible it must have been.

  15. What muddly loam goes into our bread. Indeed Passchendaele sounds like a type of loaf. Bodies broken for the girl in the bed. Well done.

  16. Perfect and perfectly sad. Love the graphic addition of gangrene. My dad said he thought they were going to a football game. He was 18 at the start of WW2.

  17. Oh, war, we never seem to be able to live without it. When I look at photos of my father-in-law when he was a soldier in WW II, all I can see is how young he was. My father was older, but war is hell to whatever age must endure it.

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