Another of Randall Jarrell’s war poems, an unillusioned view of military life superbly clinched by its final couplet.
For wars his life and half a world away
The soldier sells his family and days.
He learns to fight for freedom and the State;
He sleeps with seven men within six feet.
He picks up matches and he cleans out plates,
Is lied to like a child, cursed like a beast.
They crop his head, his dog tags ring like sheep
As his stiff limbs shift wearily to sleep.
Recalled in dreams or letters, else forgot,
His life is smothered like a grave, with dirt;
And his dull torment mottles like a fly’s
The lying amber of the histories.