The ravages of war are sometimes steeped in silence . . .

Orderly spaced headstones
gleam pristine in morning sun.
Blood stains and broken bodies,
beneath the verdant green.

Stilled smile in photo frame
clutched to breast each night.
Bereft widow lies in bed,
his voice only within her head.

Stanley, called to World War II,
assigned to stressful desk job.
Safe, his thankful family thought,
gentle soul far from battle.

But war destroys in different ways.
Pressure built. Commands grew harsh.
Time, country, lives at stake.
Stanley broke . . . mind imploded.

Other soldiers moved forward,
Stanley retreated inward.
Into the mind’s maze.
once in – no way out.

His world, one room. His eyes vacant.
No words. Only rare mutterings.
His way lost in the war,
once a brilliant mind, is where?

Weekly family visits
in his once was home.
Devoted family tried
tried to talk, to share.

You bring me to be with you
but Iamnot here

I amnotanywhere

The cacophony of war –
sometimes evident
in the silence we see.

Written for dVerse, the virtual pub for poets where today Bjorn asks us to consider the poetry of war.
My first thought when I read this prompt, was of Arlington Cemetery. And I thought of the hushed silence in that sacred space. And then I thought of my husband’s Uncle Stanley who came back from World War II a different person. I am of the mind that war is hell . . . no matter one’s role in it.

Image from

36 thoughts on “The ravages of war are sometimes steeped in silence . . .

  1. Björn Rudberg (brudberg) February 2, 2021 / 3:12 pm

    I so much love how you describe the change the war brought to Stanley… brilliantly captured in the words coming together without a break… yes war has to be hell.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian February 4, 2021 / 10:18 am

      Uncle Stanley was truly a gentle soul. The ravages of war run deep.


  2. kim881 February 2, 2021 / 3:28 pm

    This is such a moving poem, Lill. The opening lines remind me of the scene in Saving Private Ryan, with the ‘Orderly spaced headstones’ that ‘gleam pristine in morning sun’. Stanley’s story is one of thousands of men who fought and returned broken. The final lines leave the reader with an echo.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian February 4, 2021 / 10:18 am

      Thank you, Kim. I remember trying to visit with Uncle Stanley….a gentle man, lost within himself. He was never the same after WW II.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. sanaarizvi February 2, 2021 / 3:34 pm

    Oh my aching heart this is poignant! You have captured the strain and pressures of war so well, Lillian! Especially moved by; “His world, one room. His eyes vacant. No words. Only rare mutterings. His way lost in the war, once a brilliant mind, is where?”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. msjadeli February 2, 2021 / 3:44 pm

    Too many gone, whether wholly or in pieces, from the ravages of war.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ingrid February 2, 2021 / 3:48 pm

    Lillian, this is a heartbreaking poem. It immediately brought to mind Septimus Warren Smith in Mrs Dalloway. Evidently your Uncle Stanley endured a similar trauma. This is the hidden cost of war.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian February 4, 2021 / 10:20 am

      Yes, the hidden cost of war. In recent times, we see the amputees with their prosthetics, their wheel chairs. But those who suffer traumatic brain injuries are the “hidden ones” as they can look normal but are still living through hell. Uncle Stanley was never the same after WWII…but he didn’t look the same either. It was as if life had been drained out of him.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Ron. February 2, 2021 / 5:14 pm

    No one, battle soldier, desk-jockey soldier, or civilian ever escapes. This is a fine exposition, Lillian. Congratulations and thanks

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Nancy Jahnke February 2, 2021 / 5:31 pm

    Oh how I remember this gentle soul! Beautiful words to honor him-sad circumstances that took him from those loved him. N

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian February 4, 2021 / 10:21 am

      Yes. And God bless Auntie Mia for her years and years of love and patience with him. Jaye said she brought him home every weekend. That is truly unconditional love.


  8. Helen Dehner February 2, 2021 / 6:36 pm

    I am having a difficult time, after reading only several poems today …. tears are falling and I am unable to stop them. This is gut-wrenching …. and an exquisite write.

    Liked by 2 people

    • lillian February 4, 2021 / 10:22 am

      Thank you, Helen. I’ve been reading poems all morning. I’m hosting OLN later today. That’s always the day at dVerse that has the most posts. I’m hoping there’s some cheerful ones today after reading all these war poems this morning.


  9. Tricia Sankey February 2, 2021 / 7:24 pm

    I’m feeling that silence of the cemetery, the “orderly spaced headstones” is a strong phrase and image. So sad to think of all the Uncle Stanley’s out there who never return to us fully. 😢

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian February 4, 2021 / 10:23 am

      Exactly. His body came home but he literally lost his voice. His mind never returned.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. kaykuala h February 2, 2021 / 8:08 pm

    His world, one room. His eyes vacant.
    No words. Only rare mutterings.
    His way lost in the war,
    once a brilliant mind, is where?

    The classic consequence of war not often seen but felt only by those afflicted. Horrors of war when these happened and headcount of casualties are bandied about.Beautiful rendition Lillian!



    • lillian February 4, 2021 / 10:27 am

      Thank you, Hank. One note here…..since my degrees are in communication and language has always been of such interest to me. I do believe words affect perception….and sometimes words are deliberately chosen and repeated and repeated until they are a part of the lexicon..and some are chosen to lessen their effect….blur the real action they are describing. Casualties is one of those words. Many times as in 1352 casualties today….means 1352 died. Sometimes casualties of war include those with prosthetics and those living with traumatic brain injuries…they are casualties of war. Anything but casual … they are the horrors of war. Oh yes…those words “headcount of casualties are bandied about”….exactly.They hide the reality because we would be horrified by it.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. ben Alexander February 3, 2021 / 4:08 am

    Wow, Lillian – it’s so powerful to write about a real human being whom you know. Thank you for sharing this. It was hard to read.



    • lillian February 4, 2021 / 10:28 am

      Thank you, David. Uncle Stanley was the most gentle soul….he left his mind back in the WW II office he served in.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. merrildsmith February 3, 2021 / 2:09 pm

    This is so powerful, Lillian, and so moving. Those first stanzas describing the monuments and legacy of war–death not glory–and then what happened to one individual. That is so sad about Stanley. At least now, he would maybe have had treatment for PTSD.


    • lillian February 4, 2021 / 10:30 am

      Yes. Now there are treatments….even trained dogs who become companions and protectorates for those with traumatic brain injuries.
      One note….since I have always been interested in the power of language. Still today, in the news, there are announcements of the “casualties” of war….and what should really be said is either x number of people died today…..or the horrors of war.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. anotherkatewilson February 5, 2021 / 1:39 am

    Wow, really powerful.
    I work with a lot of defence personnel, and even though there is treatment for PTSD, there is still stigma attached to not being okay, not being tough. So often it isn’t treated.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian February 5, 2021 / 12:22 pm

      I agree. Too often we can not SEE traumatic brain injury like we can see a prosthetic or a scar. It can be invisible which makes it all the more devastating. Know that you do powerful and imporatnt work! I thank you for your work,


      • anotherkatewilson February 6, 2021 / 12:30 am

        You give me too much credit – I mainly work with trainees. I just see some of the trauma in people I’ve known who’ve come back from postings if Afghanistan and elsewhere, and also how quickly the enculturation of being tough starts.


  14. purplepeninportland February 6, 2021 / 2:18 pm

    The silence a soldier retreats into is probably screaming in his own head.
    Very descriptive, if disheartening, poem, Lillian.


  15. Lona Gynt February 6, 2021 / 9:24 pm

    Nothing normal about war, all who are part of the machine of it are affected. I appreciated this as someone who went, but as a medical officer, and not an officer of the line, even noncombatants feel the stress in different ways. I am sorry your uncle had these difficulties. Pwerful and descriptive and precise write.


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