The 20th century man
In 1918, I, a man of the 20th century, ordered 10,000 men
like me over the top. A similar man, on the other side,
ordered machine guns, howitzers, and mortars to fire.
He had to stop my men.
He did. Few of them returned. And most of them – like me –
were scarred in mind for life.
I did it. He did it. His Emperor did it. My President did it.
Our Stone Age ancestors did it.
In a hundred days I sent a thousand bombers across the Channel
to blow apart and incinerate my fellow man, just as some of them
had gassed and burned to ashes many more of my fellow man.
They did it. We did it. I did it.
And you know something? I wasn’t even born when I sent
my fellow man to death at Belleau Wood;
and only a child when I rained fire on Hamburg.
But as certain as I live today, I did it.
Years later, when I am gone, when others bemoan
the slaughter at Verdun, the fiery atomization of Hiroshima,
the disembowelment of Vietnam, the consuming fireballs of 9-11,
death grants me no rest, because if others don’t know him,
I know the 20th century man behind those horrors.
If it could, my earth bound fleshless jaw, bone grating against bone,
would try to form these words:
I – did – it.
Robert W Proctor November 2002
More anti-war poems HERE.