Sold - Poem About World War II

May 2, 2018
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The radio buzzes with the news that Japs dropped bombs.

Uncle Sam says you’ve got to pay your dues.

You go down to the war office,

You want to be a hero.

You heard a local boy got 4F.

Suicide.

Noose around his neck.

You want to be a hero.

Maybe he did too.

That limp he had wasn’t good enough for Uncle Sam,

So red, white, and blue tied the rope.

Mother cries, father drinks.

“I’ll be back in six months.”

Kiss your mother, count your socks, board the train.

Arrive, find your commander, unpack your things.

PT, slop, heavy boots, fire your M1.

“Hit those Krauts, hit those Japs!”

Weekend pass revoked,

Chevron’s stitched wrong, pin-up girls found in your locker.

Letters from Doris, Sally, and Mary.

One friend left

Said he couldn’t take it.

But you want to be a hero.

Coward, you think.
Ship out, three days, drop in two weeks.

England? Only in books.  

Are you ready?

Uncle Sam asked you to pay your dues.

Soar above the English Channel,

You can’t see anything.

Red light,

Hit your man, tell him his gear is all set.

Remind him he’ll die when he steps off this plane.

Heroes, you think.

Stand by the door, glowing red from the rising sun,

Bleached green and grey under the gaze of Hitler’s face.

Watch shells explode, kill your brother, your cousin, friend, and neighbor.

“Jump,” they say. “To where?” you ask. “To your death!” they holler.

“Okay,” you say.

Green light.

Jump.

Sold you were, an entire generation,

Sold to fight the war of rich men and the old.

The Germans wanted revenge, said Versailles was a sham.

They got hungry and Hitler had bread.

The Japs joined in.

The rising sun punched Uncle Sam.

Fight for me, secure a future you won’t see,

Uncle Sam asked you to pay your dues.

18 in 41’ you could have been 17, 16, or not even born.

But you were born, so sold you were.

Sold for hunger and rich men’s whims.

What are you fighting for?

For freedom?  Not for you.

Blisters, trench foot, lost your socks, lost your company,

Lost your friends.

Lost your mind? They’ll call it shell shock or maybe melancholy

Two years, then four.

Heroes the first two, fools the last.

“To home,” they say one day.

“Home?”

You know it won’t be the same.

You pull up to the station,

Think its heaven, your little town.

See your mother, who looks ages older, your old man, who looks harder.

You embrace them.

“This is freedom,” you think.

But then they tell you what was obliterated,

And you realize that Uncle Sam asked too much.

Johnny didn’t make it, shot down in Japan,

Bart didn’t make it, shot in the face in the Ardness,

George didn’t make it, shot in the stomach in Holland,

Bill didn’t make it, died of trench foot in France.

You can’t even cry, for your tears were sold to Uncle Sam.

Did you pay your dues?

To country, “Amor patriae.”






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