Holy War

Ambushed through adolescence by obligations to the social order. Grew up to be fools, obeying concealed greed. From basic training to final defeat. We tried to prove the heart can succeed in solo command.

Alert the generals to disband the forces. The status quo has spiraled into chaos. Hump your sword, sir! Enemy’s within.

War was not political but a religious experience. No atheists in foxholes. God’s a woman, behind the lines – a chapel, an icon, an altar. Tells you went to kneel, how to pray, the way to pronounce her sacred name. She reveals your heart, rends it with a knife of gold, burns your blood in sacrifice.

She dances. She smiles. She embraces the dark. We never questioned what we were fighting for. We suffered like the faithful soldier – lips tight, hands folded. She had hundreds of redeemers.

So we marched in straight rows. Arms rigid, swinging in step, holding a rifle, thick and hard. We cleaned off our boots after battle. We savored the blood but never mentioned the horrors. Faith healed the gore. We remained brave and noble troops. On a love crusade; Sex the Big Parade. Helmet secure, ready for action. Clash after clash, fires and explosions, flying limbs and shattered earth. Either breasts or death on the perimeter. Who didn’t believe in victory? No greater depth of commitment in military history.

But no one informed the front line the soul of what we protected had crumbled. Along with the streets and buildings. Employees sabotaged businesses. The decayed infrastructure smashed easily. Citizens rioted for food, for clothing, for cable T.V. They wanted freedom: economic and absolute.

Soon no ammunition for weapons. No tins of meat or water for canteens. All we had left were flashbacks and dreams.

Holy War by Timothy Herrick first appeared in I Is Another (Selected Prose Poems) by Timothy Herrick, Wild Strawberry Press, 1992