Wars Within

I learnt in school that war is what happens

when nations disagree, but the textbooks never told me

that war is also what happens when parents disagree;

and when children throw insults harder than they throw baseballs,

and when I cannot get out of my bed in the morning,

because there is a voice in my head that tells me

I might win the battle, but I will not win the —

War is what happens when teachers call on the students

who don’t have the answers, and they are left

fighting their father once he sees the report card.

War is what happens when it rains so hard

blades of grass bend over, defeated.

I have seen war across some people’s wrists.

I have seen it on bones, trying to revolt the flesh.

I have seen it in eyes, like double whiskey shots

that are drunk of self hatred.

I thought war was loud, it was supposed to be

bombs and a dictator’s speech and the sound of an entire race

being crossed off one by one, like the dates of a calender.

And I can agree, that this is war but

war could also be silent.

War can be as quiet as a miscarriage.

or the therapy sessions afterwards, which are even quieter.

It can be as silent as a gas leak.

They asked me in sixth grade what war meant to me,

I told them about the holocaust, and about the Jews.

I didn’t tell them about the boy across the road from me

whose father used his forearms as ashtrays,

and whose eyeswere the star spangled flag of America.

I didn’t tell them that women have their bodies claimed,

like new worlds, and men who punch walls and wear their bruised knuckles

like honor badges for all the tears they haven’t shed because

they were raised to be soldiers and

soldiers do not cry.

I did not say all this because I was taught that war was big.

It was something that happened between countries

and it happened with armies and guns and nuclear weapons.

But if they asked me now-

if they asked me now

I would tell them war is what happens inside all of us.


26 thoughts on “Wars Within

  1. Hi, Melanie. I discovered your blog on the First Friday thread. Amazing poem! I identified with everything you wrote. Makes me think about the connection between this “inside war” and the kinds of war that destroys entire nations or specific communities.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. “and whose eyeswere the star spangled flag of America.”
    eyes were
    “I told them about the holocaust, and about the Jews.”
    I think the H will be capital.

    Otherwise, it’s a brilliantly written piece. Well done. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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