Claudia Whitehead McCoy

WORDS NOT SPOKEN, TRUTHS UNTOLD

My Grandfather never spoke
Of the Great War.
Instead he told of dancing
With French peasant girls.
Sometimes I wanted to dance
With my Grandfather,
But he had left his legs
In a foxhole in Belgium.

My Father never spoke
Of World War II.
Instead he told of
Telling stories around a campfire
On Guadalcanal.
Sometimes late at night
A dozen years later,
He would scream and writhe in pain
With the Malaria
He couldn’t leave in the Pacific.

My cousin never spoke
Of the Korean Conflict.
Instead he told
Us how much our letters meant
In that cold forgotten place.
Sometimes I would like to write
To him again, but
The telegram forgot to mention
The zip code for someone killed in action.

My husband never speaks Of Vietnam,
Instead he tells me
How beautiful the flowers were.
Sometimes in July
When fireworks crack and sparkle
He cowers in a closet,
Holding his head
And calling out, “Incoming! Incoming!”

Do I speak to my children
Of wars gone and those yet to be?
I can’t begin to know
The horror or the exhilaration.
I’ve never been there.
But sometimes I tell them
Of Peace and the price
That some have paid
For this illusive gift.

And if I never spoke
Of war
How would they understand
About honor, courage and patriotism?
But sometimes I have to tell them
About greed, power and carelessness.
Because war isn’t always what it’s said to be,
And God isn’t always on our side.