Battleground

By William Trowbridge

It showed the War was as my father said:
boredom flanked by terror, a matter of keeping
low and not freezing. “You wore your helmet
 
square,” he said, not “at some stupid angle,
like that draft-dodger Wayne,” who died
so photogenically in The Sands of Iwa Jima.
 
Those nights I heard shouts from the dark
of my parents’ room, he was back down
in his foxhole, barking orders, taking fire
 
that followed him from France and Germany,
then slipped into the house, where it hunkered
in the rafters and thrived on ambush. We kept
 
our helmets on, my mother and I,
but there was no cover, and our helmets
always tilted. He’d lump us with the ones
 
he called “JohnDoes,” lazy, stupid, useless.
We needed to straighten up and fly right,
pick it up, chop chop, not get “nervous
 
in the service.” We’d duck down like GIs
where German snipers might be crouched
in haylofts, their breaths held for the clean shot.
 
“Bang,” my father said, “the dead went down,
some like dying swans, some like puppets
with their strings cut.” I wanted to hear more,
 
but he’d change the subject, talk about
the pennant, the Cards’ shaky odds, how Musial
was worth the whole JohnDoe lot of them.

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