a small poem about war

surely by now all the mothers are tired of their sons’ names

held

in the sour mouths of men

who find it easy to use the word

sacrifice

as if it were a holy thing

the bone of it splintering, the seeping of it

the red of it darkening the skin of the earth

the noise of the scream, the

smell

as if it could ever sound the same as new breath, as

a hand closing around a finger, the way that mothers say, look!

look at the train, the plane, the automobile

all the places you will go to, some day

all the dreams that i have sewed into the hem of your coat

the way my hips will never be the same shape

after you left my body

and now

now, they have come to give me this word

sacrifice

there is nothing i can do with this word

it does not sound like your name

at all

and all the men with sour mouths say,

amen.

© Liezel Graham 2022

{📷 snow on my boy’s hair}

from one mother of a son, to all the mothers whose bodies will never be the same in the light of that word, sacrifice, that fits the sour mouths of men who hunger for war—who send young men to fight battles that need not be fought.


and for the mother of, Vitaliy Skakun Volodymyrovych.

{a postscript added to my original posting on Facebook, on the 27th of February 2022}

thank you for all the love and kind comments on my poem about war. it is, as someone who knows me and my words so well said, quite unlike my usual style. i see anger threaded through my words. nobody wins in a war. nobody. everyone loses—the people, the animals, the plants, the water, the earth. i am angry at the losses, and the losses have many names, and behind each loss is a grief—someone somewhere might never recover from it. thank you to those who gently pointed out that women also go to war, are also soldiers, also die during wars and battles. i hope that my words did not cause frustration or anger, because i know that women fight wars and are soldiers, but like all my words, these came from a personal place and captured a moment as i saw it—that is how i write, and i saw the name of one young man who died to save others and of course the word, sacrifice, was attached to his actions, and of course this is a truth and an honourable thing as he saved others. but, that word will never replace his presence in his mother’s life, and his father will never again see his son walk through the door. i have only one child—a boy. my words are that of a mother to another mother, and if i do not mention fathers, or daughters in a poem, it is only because i captured a moment—i tell of a moment. mothers and fathers, sons and daughters—all are important. thank you for your grace and kindness as readers.

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