We wanted to be brave, prove ourselves,
yet we studied deep into each night
to keep out of the war that was our
one big chance to prove we were brave,
the chance Phil from Cordele got after
failing Chemistry, losing his deferment,
Phil who was clumsy, not good at sports.
We shook our heads at the thought of him -
fuzz-cheeked, helmet too big, search and destroy.
We looked for faces on the nightly news,
friends pushing their way through chest-high grass.
Two hundred Phils a week were getting killed.
We dreamed of pulling hurt kids from car wrecks
to prove we were brave, but there were no wrecks,
there was only the war where cousins flew
Hueys outside of Pleiku, and we did not.
"Hiding out in college isn't fair," we said.
Ramrod uncles said, "All right then, enlist."
We didn't want to go that far.
Krishna told Arjuna he had to go fight.
Hector's body was defiled at Troy.
God told Abraham, "Kill me a son,"
the line Bob Dylan used in a song
we sometimes played in our metal-desk rooms
where we studied while not being brave.
No one wanted to be the son who might
not be spared, the son who'd go like Phil did,
like Trey from Macon did after he gave up
passing Statistics. We helped him pack,
told him he might end up in Germany,
but nobody really believed it.
(published by Scalawag Magazine, 10/17)