The Draft

by Iona L., 17

How many poets have become soldiers?
How many soldiers have died
composing epics in their minds,
classics blown to bits
burned and left in the mud of battle?
The pen is only mightier
than the sword until
you’ve been stabbed with it
and words don’t quite make the cut anymore.
What is left is gurgling,
a sputtering of prose
that gets caught up
in a spattering of blood.
The poet and the soldier
are one in the same,
both searching for an acceptable suicide
find it in glory and or allegory
leaves you with gore either way.
Be it brutal, be it beautiful,
your goodbye etched between pages
or stamped on dog tags
and staked in the ground with helmet and rifle.
Those final moments
are the crucial ones,
when poet and soldier
approach each other
pass on their journey,
survive and switch.
The poet becomes a fighter,
gunpowder sort of anger
face like a minefield
risk it, I dare you
take a step.
The soldier becomes a romantic,
melancholy and introspective
holding too tightly to
the precious things,
stringing memories into story.
We are wounds,
we are bleeding
wells of ink within our veins.
There’s a deafening quality
to a gun in new hands,
same way the room doesn’t change
as it is observed,
same way we make spectacle
of that which is tragic.
Poet soldier
you pedantic, rambling
core of brute force,
speak with flourish and
move with trained stiffness
for you are the one
that goes into this war
and you are the one
who must write down our histories
and what it all means,
give me meaning.
Do not expect to die here
we are past that.
Find killing,
find repetition,
find living if you must.
I am the poet
that has become soldier
that has become writer once again,
an amalgamation of what is left.
How many of them are left with us,
poets, soldiers, and whatever
lies between?

Red Bank, New Jersey

Notes from our interns on selecting this piece: Vivid and visceral, drawing the reader into the emotional and physical experience of soldiers and poets alike. The final stanza is particularly striking, emphasizing the transformative nature of war and the lasting impact it has on those who experience it.