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A Long War


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for Sophia Thoreau

Those martial stains seemed as far away as Jupiter or even Pluto, as many years back as our memories allowed us to remember which 

always seems so long ago now at our little post under the elm tree, in the shade where we like to believe we are on high ground past history 

but I have a piece of poetry to read to you: 

     Death is not a singular 


     are not quiet and smooth  

     and green with moss— 

     trumpets do not sing 

     the fame of trenches 

     filling up with the weedy 

     dead—and the grunts 

     will say we lost one hell 

     of a lot of people—and 

     the generals will say— 

     our casualties had been 

     high—and a few tales of 

     outstanding bravery will 

     make it into high school 

     history books—and teens 

     will think they have a  

     fairly clear picture of sun 

     and rain and dew on our 

     side—while a man who 

     begins wars from behind 

     a desk will sedulously 

     cultivate another—while 

     everyone else will not  

     want to think about it, 

     will say I can’t even 


Yes, a poem is a comforting thing to have, 

a very friendly thing to have.

* Sophia Thoreau (1819-1876; United States): collaborator and editor of Henry David Thoreau’s  works (she was the primary editor for all of his posthumous publications), artist (including the  original title page of Walden), naturalist, gardener, abolitionist, and teacher; sister of Henry David  Thoreau 

* some words borrowed from Walden, “The Bean Field” (“the trumpet that sings of fame,” “these  martial stains seemed as far away as,” “the elm tree tops,” “singular experience,” “sedulously  cultivating another,” “a long war,” “sun and rain and dews on their side,” “filling up the trenches  with the weedy dead,” “our little post,” “a fairly clear picture,” “high ground,” “past history,” “lost  one hell of a lot of people,” “our casualties had been high,” “tales of outstanding bravery,” “I have  a piece of Poetry to read to you,” “they didn’t want to think about it,” “It’s a comforting sort of  thing to have,” “was a very friendly thing to have,” “quiet and smooth and green”


for Sheila Wingfield 

Routines fall into cadence, but still, 

truth has a roguishness about it— 

stepping out of rhythm, tossing back 

a few in the middle of the night— 

You want something so badly, so 

completely that you fail to complete 

a circle of friends or poem after poem 

put aside from the shock of war’s end— 

However it’s cooked, food goes down 

slowly with a side of lacking conversation— 

This is how you learn to communicate 

like a staccato of ammunition, then silence 

until you move like a cloud across the sun, 

and the sun is far, far in the distance then— 

Routines fall into a different cadence, but still, 

truth will always have that roguishness about it. 

* Sheila Wingfield (1906-1992; Irish, born in England): poet (several collections including A  Cloud Across the Sun, A Kite’s Dinner and Beat Drum, Beat Heart) and memoirist (Real People and Sun Too Fast) 

* a line borrowed from the title A Cloud Across the Sun

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Lisa Stice is a poet/mother/military spouse. She is the author of two full-length collections, Permanent Change of Station (Middle West Press, 2018) and Uniform (Aldrich Press, 2016), and a chapbook, Desert (Prolific Press). While it is difficult to say where home is, she currently lives in North Carolina with her husband, daughter and dog. You can learn more about her and her publications at,, and

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