poetry critical

online poetry workshop

War Games

“Old men were once young, but it is uncertain
If young men will reach old age”—Democritus.
Two boys
no older than ten
dressed in military fatigues
approach the playground with stealth  
sliding through the sand on their soft bellies
like camouflaged snakes.
Their covert mission is coordinated
with practiced precision;
one boy rises to his knees and fires round
after round from his plastic rifle
to occupy the unsuspecting enemy
while the other boy buries a make-believe bomb
at the base of the jungle gym.
They die as many times
as the game allows;
over and over they fall  
to writhe in the dust
gripping their small chests
like actors in a bad movie.
From a park bench a woman watches—
her heart quickening with fear
as she thinks of her own son
embroiled in conflict half a world away where
many young men will never become old men
having turned full circle
on the learning curve of war.

22 Feb 08

Rated 9 (8.4) by 1 users.
Active (1): 9
Inactive (6): 7, 7, 8, 9, 9, 10

(define the words in this poem)
(50 more poems by this author)

(1 user considers this poem a favorite)

Add A Comment:
Enter the following text to post as unknown: captcha


nice work
will it always be this way?
 — unknown

Thanks for the comment--and yes, it probably will always be this way.
 — PaulS

I think it's very good but it has been said so many times before. Maybe intermesh the women through the poem rather than all piled at the end.
Anyway, good poem and I like the last two lines.
 — cowork

Thanks cowork, I'll think about your suggestion.
 — PaulS

had it suggested to me in the past
and maybe it's not your idea of fun
you might consider in the future cutting down on some of the words
especially in cases where you want to use like such as

sliding through the sand
camouflaged snakes

as soon as i read with their soft bellies i knew or i felt or something or other that they were snakes, so
nice poem
 — chuckle_s

"bad movie" -- you've set the tone as unrelenting comment on them, and there's no need to drop this small aside, as though we diin't know that you were writing a script for it. and, for sure, the ending stanza shows that this was a setup, and, if you're going to serve wicked martinis, don't pour them into paper cups. is the woman really so mechanical that she'd think a phrase like "learning curve of war"? isn't that just the smug wording of someone looking for a war? like this poet?
 — joey

Thanks for the crit joey.
 — PaulS

I really like this
 — MASzzz

i must afree with cowork though but you did make it work maybe play with this poem and try to do what cowork and others have said. i often play with a poem and have many versions of it
 — MASzzz

Thanks for reading, MASzzz.
 — PaulS

interesting poem-
it's kind of like lion cubs wrestling around with each other and it's all fun and games for them
but what they're actually doing is honing their skills for adulthood and hunting which is purely for survival
nice write
 — JKWeb

Thanks for reading, JK.  I guess your interpretation is one way to look at it, but that was not my intention with this.
 — PaulS

You've managed to keep personal opinion out of this and concentrate on a narrative which conjured up moving images of the fantasy and reality of conflict.

I know many poets who fear writing about war and though those of us who unlike Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen etc have not experienced battle we can offer a commentary piece.

Your poem most importantly will relate and get empathy from the indifferent to those who have experienced it and undeniably it is safe territory. It is neither offensive, arrogant or self important but just a poignant back story/poet wrote from an accomplished man in touch with his emotions.

Men should write like this, we think beautiful things most of the time yet many weave these thoughts as they coil in bed unheard and unassured that its ok.

I like this.

 — unknown

thank you , Caducas for your comments--coming from someone as accomplished as you means a great deal to me.  
 — PaulS

Two men in the making. Sad but true
 — BxPR

This is just one of the horrifying parts of being alive, the innocent play and the reality of real bullets, real war.  Very well told without being too sweet or knocking us over with the pain.  
 — Isabelle5

Thanks, BxPR--yes, sad but true.
 — PaulS

Thank you, Isabelle, Yuor comment is much appreciated.
 — PaulS