The Chaplain and the Soldier...A Poem



"I pray over remains, still-living bodies

so burned and blasted they can hardly be called human.

Yet I intercede with God, ask his mercy

on these victims of their fellow man.

Whether or not they know what I do,

I try to ease their passage.


"There are others who seem nearly whole,

as if by passing weakness overcome,

a blow sustained in a football game,

pink-cheeked sweethearts anxious in the stands.

All are changed, though, Paul back to Saul,

life re-routed, Damascus to Bastogne,

by bullets that sped a thousand yards.


"Those conscious, I try to comfort

by words of Christ, my evident faith.

They must not die alone on strange ground,

leave distant families far too soon,

far too far behind. They go to Heaven,

resting place of Christian warriors,

Valhalla, whether knight or crass draftee."



"I took the blow as I was struggling up the beach,

heavy-laden with pack and rifle. It was a heavy blow

that knocked me from my feet (I knew then how

the falling red deer feels). I struggled to get up,

but could not raise that heavy, heavy pack

with a body in an instant drained

of all its primal strength and life-time energy.

I could not make it even to my knees.

Could I not make my life ever work again?


"The roar of war that was so lately loud,

pounding as the pressured pulse within my ear,

has disappeared, withdrawn, retreated

to some distant, other land.

I lie in silence, disenfranchised,

a world of shadow, shifting dream, as if life

and talking pictures never were, had never been."



"I pray over remains, still-living bodies

so blasted and burned they can hardly be called human.

If, as said, the body is donkey of the soul,

despite evisceration the essential soul remains intact.

I help it travel to the elemental center of the world.


"Amid the flaming shells and ricochets,

machine gun, mortar hell, in rank jungle

fecund mud, or crimson earth iced

tank-tread hard, I crouch, I kneel,

I lie beside the dying and the dead,

help them bid farewell to beauty,

accept the waste of shortened lives;

the horror of a monstrous world

that must, apparently, ever be."



"My body seems intact, two arms, two legs;

I'm perfect as the day my mom delivered me,

pressed bloody, squalling flesh from out her own

not twenty years ago...except for one small hole,

relatively small, near the center of my soul.


"I swoon, I spin in blackness, darkness, gag in blood,

see moving lips, a whiskered chin with steepled hands attached,

watch them wave a cross in space before my failing gaze.

I've seen this done before, in life and John Wayne's view of war.

God, I've never felt like this. Have mercy on my soul."


Copyright by Don Gray


Don Gray Art  •  Poems