They ask “Why do you do this—

                        This dressing up and dashing around,

                        This eating from tin and sleeping on the ground,

                        This playing at war?  What for?


And you smile at your friends

Who think you are romanticizing murder,

And give them answers to take home.


To one you say, “Why it keeps me fit!

                        Like a natural nautilus high!

                                    Give me a ten-pound rifle and a ten-pound pack,

                                    ‘By columns right to the road and back!’

                                    Get the pulse rate up with a fierce attack!

                        It’s aerobics under the sky.”


To another you say, “It’s the sport of it!

                        Camping outdoors with all my pals,

                                    A beer, a beard, a boast, a jest,

                                    Passing every manly test,

                                    Male bonding at its best,

                        And flirting with all the gals.”


To a third you say, “It’s my teaching bit!”

                        Ask the average guy today

                                    “When was the war?”

                                    “What did it do?”

                                    “What did those men

                                    Accomplish for you?”

                        Most likely he will say

                                    “Something about slaves and Scarlett O’Hara,

                                    And Lincoln and the theater,

And that thing they did on tv with that guy Shelby something, I didn’t                                     watch             most of it,

                        Oh, and by the way …  who won?”


To another you say, “Because time won’t quit.”

                        The past is the present.

                        We have to know who we are

                        From whom we used to be.

                        We look back on the way we were to see how far we’ve come,



But the truth, the root-truth, the seed-truth

That your marrow self must admit

Is this:


                        When the candle is down to a half-inch glow,

                        And stars bespatter the night,

                        When shelters and A-frames blossom in even rows

like ivory flowers new sprung from the earth,

                        When the gold spotlight of campfires raises curtains on

                                    twos and threes still tearing away at a tale or two,

                        When finally they fall still, seized by the silence,

                                    The universal quiet,

                        When the only sound is the ebb and flow of your heart’s blood murmur—

                                    a rising tide of love,


Then you give answer to the person who really counts,

Who comes to sit beside you on the ground

And warms you with his pride.


And you say:


“I do it for you, my sleeping soldier,

                        You farm lad, city boy, young man, old,

                        Irish, German, sage or fool,

                        Who said to wife or mom or farm or job

                        ‘This has to wait a while.’


“I do it for you, fellow journeyer,

                        You seeker, quester, dreamer,

                        Pulled by time and unseen hands

                        Away from the no you knew

                        And set marching towards an unknown yes;

                        The yes that’s still out there




“I do it for you, my long-loved other,

Who is the man I used to be,

I do all this:

                        This reading and sewing,

                        This freezing and sweating,

                        This marching and shouting,

                        This doing and showing,

                        This dying and dying.


All this so you will never truly die,

And neither, my pard, will I”







I’ve writ of battle, bond and ball

And characters that I recall;

Here’s to the loveliest of all.

            The subject of this verse is

            Those so-important nurses.


They spring a special flavor through,

Doing secret things for you

That skirmishes can never do.           

            I bet all my purses

            On these very useful nurses.


When I am weary of the war,

And battle gets to be a bore,

I slap on that plastic gore

            And crawl past the traverses

            To play there with the nurses.


They cradle me in gingham skirt,

And wipe away the yucchy dirt,

Or kiss away the nasty hurt.

            My little boy reverses.

            God bless the laps of nurses.


They cool my forehead when it’s hot,

And stop the bleeding where I’m shot.

(It’s all pretend and yet it’s not.)

            My fantasy traverses

            The time warp made by nurses.


I see myself upon the ground

With Mister Death coming around.

“Hi, Dave!”  That very current sound

            Soon drives away the hearses.

            Reality-checking nurses.


And should they cradle me so tight

To lullabye away my fright,

My eyes behold a wond’rous sight:

            My testosterone converses

            With the bosoms of the nurses.


All praises to this special crew!

Let’s give them all their precious due:

Every soldier’s dream come true.

            A thousand hellish curses

            On events that have no nurses!





John Brown woke up one morning

And had his coffee.

While he was drinking it,

He said “I think I’ll change the world.”


He said, “I think that’d be a mighty fine thing, to go down in history!”


He said “Like that Jesus fella did in Galilee.”

He said, “Like that Moses fella did in Egypt.”

He said, “That would be a fine thing to do.”


And an Angel heard him.

And the Angel flew down and introduced himself and poured himself a cup of coffee too

            and sat down for a right friendly chat.

And the Angel said, “Now you be careful, John.  The Lord made the world and

            He pretty much likes it the way it is.”


“Well I’m sure that’s true,” said John Brown.  “But He put me in it, din’t  He?”

“’Spect so,” said the Angel.


“And He made me the man I am, din’t He do that too?”

“’Spect so,” said the Angel.


“And the man that I am has such fine thoughts in his head.  Where’d they come from, you             reckon?”

“’From the Lord surely,” said the Angel.


“So, if the Lord put those thoughts into the head of the man that I am, and those thoughts             help make me the man that I am and if the Lord is fine with that,  that must be             what the Lord wants, you reckon that too?”

“You’re goin’ a mite too fast for me,” said the Angel. “Could you walk me through

            that one more time?”


“Nope,” said John Brown.  “No time.  The world’s mighty big and needs mighty strong

            changing.  I got to get myself started.”

And he bid the Angel a fond but urgent farewell.  And he left the Angel sitting

            there with his coffee, trying to figure it out, while


John Brown set out to change the world.






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