"Patriotism is a kind of religion; it is the egg from which wars are hatched." ~ Guy de Maupassant
Beyond the count of years I walked the world,
and my children built their shrines to me.
Decades and centuries and millennia pass,
and still the shrines are built.
Temples insubstantial to men,
clear to my eyes.
No foundations or walls or roofs,
but shrines nonetheless.
Holy ground, consecrated
Today, every day, somewhere in the world,
the earth is prepared for my coming.
My hallowed grounds are everywhere.
In valleys and on mountains,
on broad plains and deep in hidden passes,
in deserts, on city streets.
Nameless, unremembered places.
Named, remembered places.
Forest trails where the quiet lines of tall, clean-limbed men walked,
leaving behind them squat, hairy cave dwellers
in pools of their own blood.
Grassy plains over-marched by long rows of men with sandaled feet
and burnished helmets and spear points,
falling as chariots scythed their way through the ranks.
Glens where hollow squares of foot soldiers held spears
against the charge of armored knights
and storms of arrows found crevices between their shields.
Green ridges where thousands charged their countrymen,
muskets firing, cannon spewing grapeshot and canister,
and they cried for water,
and for their mothers,
and for the pain,
and died under bloody banners.
Muddy remnants of orchards where the machine gun fire
tore the trees to stumps three feet above the ground
and the men fell down in rows,
and the trenches where grenades and shells found them
and left them in buried piles
of limbs and torsos.
Forests where the scream of artillery shells
and the hollow thunder of tree bursts
sent foot-long splinters of wood
through the bodies of men below.
Frigid hilltops and foxholes filled with frozen bodies
left after their positions had been overrun
and the air support came too late.
Jungles where they bled and screamed and died,
bodies lying forlorn until they rotted into the rank growth under them,
a shiny bit of metal their only marker.
City streets strewn with the rubble of destroyed houses
to the chatter of automatic weapons fire.
Incinerated landscapes where lost children weep for dead parents;
lost parents weep for dead children.
The dead with no one left to weep for them.
Megiddo. Thermopylae. Tyre. Kai-Sia. Carthage. Hastings. Stirling. Falkirk. Culloden. Quebec. Lexington. Concord. Saratoga. Yorktown. Leipzig. Borodino. Austerlitz. Waterloo. Manassas. Antietam. Shiloh. Vicksburg. Gettysburg. Cold Harbor. Gallipoli. Verdun. Ypres. Nanking. Pearl Harbor. Guadalcanal. Iwo Jima. Wake. Midway. Kasserine Pass. Caen. Bastogne. Dresden. Leningrad.
Inchon. Pusan. Chosin. Hill 800. Heartbreak Ridge. Ia Drang Valley. Khe Sahn. Hue. Hamburger Hill. Saigon. Gaza. West Bank. Bosnia. Mogadishu.
Monuments with names of soldiers and battalions and brigades and regiments,
police actions, peace-keeping missions, conflicts, battles and wars.
Cemeteries with ranks of white crosses as far as the eye can see.
A black granite Wall with names and names and names
and the visitors come and look down where the wall
is one, two, three inches high coming out of the earth
and there is a line of names there
and they think this isn't so much,
and as they walk the trail dips down
and the Wall appears to grow
and the lines of names are higher and higher until
the topmost line is so tall you need
a ladder to reach it,
to read it
A monument to me.
Keeping the peace
Making the world safe
My brothers and sisters are fading away.
It is right; it is just.
Their shrines are tumbled, forgotten.
No one brings offerings to Sun or Earth or Thought or Love.
My brother Peace died stillborn.
I remain because my children continue to consecrate the ground,
in my name,
with their own blood.
I thrive and grow.
Hate and Demagoguery, Jealousy and Selfishness
have joined my long-time outriders,
Fear and Panic.
We ride together.
We serve our father well, the Horseman who is called Death.
I am War.