Butler Pennsylvania 31


Wartime, 1943


We played war on Elephant's Back,
that hill on top of Monroe,
dug trenches, manned machine guns
on wooden pegs,
yanked helmets sponged inside
tight to chins
and made as if the enemy
were about to attack us
from the hill opposite ours.

They sent scouts out
to spy on them and report,
while we watched the older boys
(and that girl)
sketch out battle plans
on candy wrap.

But we the troops,
picnicked in foxholes,
pulled guard duty and soldiered,
answering duty's call
waging war on Saturdays
from ten until four
when the long awaited whistle
at the mill would blow
and we fell into line
for our victory march home.

We knew while marching
that those greeting us
from the porches
would rise and salute
while the others
would be waving their wary
worried gratitude.

For only later did we grasp
their real hope—
that we stay young just long enough
to be spared from finding out
what real war, what battle meant.