Warning: The subject of this poem is quite controversial, and the imagery it contains is graphic. If you have strong opinions about war, soldiers, or people who refuse to be soldiers, you may find this work offensive. There is a reason this poem is the only poem I have rated T.


My country is in danger.
My family has been threatened.
Children will grow up without parents
unless I do not act.
An axe is hanging above the head
of my liberty—
so says Authority.

No, I will not pull on the camouflage,
nor will I pick up that gun,
nor will I walk through the mud,
nor will I dry my tongue screaming.
No, I will not defend my country.

You see, camouflage does not look good on me
the gun would lie too heavy in my arms
that mud is not dirt and water, but dirt and blood
and I am not brave enough to watch my friends die,
nor am I brave enough to spatter a man's entrails
across the burning ground.

and so you call me coward
and traitor
and fool
weak, selfish, disloyal,
self-centered, egotistic,
and spineless
and all of those, all but the last, are quite true.

(and by that I mean
you cannot call me spineless
for it takes a backbone made of mountain
to pronounce oneself a coward
and so defy Authority.)

You see, I am quite happy to be the coward in the corner,
if being coward
means that no little boy will cry
and leave his tears in the dying dust
because I shot his father.

So you may do the brave thing,
you may have the glory
of making the mothers weep
and the little boys lonely;
you are welcome to the great honor
of spattering a man's entrails
across the burning ground.

I applaud you.

I will be the coward in the corner,
and you will be the murderer.