Tuesday, September 19, 2017

"What War Is Like" by Mary Soon Lee

What War Is Like
Mary Soon Lee

Not this.
Not this glory.
Not this unsullied glory.
Not this unsullied, thunderous glory.

The thunder, yes.
The thunder falling from falcons,
from the F-16s rocketing upward
in delta formation.

The aircraft, yes,
but not the air show, the fast food stands.
Not the planes' patriotic paint job,
red, white, and blue.

The pilots, yes,
but flying foreign skies,
their vipers liveried in gray,
armed with AMRAAMs. What we ask of them.

What we ask of all our warriors.
To be our sword, our shield.
To risk themselves.
To kill.

Poet's Notes: I wrote this poem last month, after going to the annual "Wings Over Pittsburgh" air show. As in past years, I was struck by the performances, including that of the Air Force's Thunderbirds. It's a visceral, astonishing experience to watch them. A book I’d recently read also influenced the poem, particularly the title: "What It is Like to Go to War," by Karl Marlantes, a book that also made an impression on me. (I recommend the book--it's a thoughtful, often excellent description and discussion of warfare, written by a Marine officer who served in Vietnam). I wish the poem came closer to capturing the intensity of watching the F-16s. 

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