Please Don't Let My Son Go To War
p r o l o g u e

I am the fourth of five sons born between 1931 and 1952. My bothers’ names from the eldest to the youngest are Howard, Norman, Herbert and Bruce. We love each other and we are very different human beings. Although two of them served in the military during peacetime in the early 60’s, one common bond that we all share is that none of us has fought in a war. The World, including The United States of America, has engaged in many wars since Howard was born. Millions of dead and severely wounded soldiers and innocent civilians on all sides of the conflicts are the result. Though always a high price to pay, some of the reasons for going to war are somewhat justifiable, Few who believe in freedom can question the necessity of defeating Hitler and his zealous Nazi counterparts. The world is a safer place without his madness. But most of the wars have been fought for less lofty economic, territorial, religious or political reasons. Is a life worth a barrel of oil or a piece of sand in the desert or a fanatical belief in a “God on our side” philosophy or the crushing of Communism?

Over the years, we have courted and we have defended and supported dictatorships and other repressive regimes, and have attempted to undermine and overthrow governments that we disagreed with politically. Often, our friends became our enemies and our worst enemies became our best friends. During the Vietnam War, I attended college and dental school, and I was able to get a student deferment and avoid the draft and the lottery. However, several of my friends were not as fortunate and were drafted. Some went to Vietnam, were killed, and came back in body bags.

Today, my 30 year-old son Noah, and 18 year-old son, Justin, are prime meat for the war machine now doing battle in Afghanistan. Future wars are inevitable, and the possibility of another draft always looms on the horizon.

When I was assembling the more than 80 poems for this book, one particularly overwhelmed me that I had written nearly 40 years ago. Although “Please Don’t Let My Son Go to War” was written before I had any children of my own, the anti-war and pro-peace message is as powerful today as it was then, and is the clear choice for the title of this book.

Please Don't Let My Son Go To War

Breakfast At The Cemetery

Dinner Conversation About The Holyland

Symphony Of Peace

The Ballad Of Danny Roberts

The Saxophone Player

To Be Nineteen

Where Is The Peace Train

there's a lovely lady
waiting for me to come home.

She knows my head
was blown off in a battle,
but, she's seen me walk through that door before.

Our minds touch as she
walks by the river.
The waters of her eyes fill the air.

The smell of gardenia's
is replaced by blood and flesh.
No, she don't believe in God anymore.

The joy we've had, I couldn't ask for better.
Life is a field of floppy-haired puppies
and children with their hearts full of toys.

From here, I scream,
I try so hard to reach you.
Please don't let my son go to war.

It's hell.
I had a choice.
I could've shot my enemy.

I chose to die instead.
Be my witness.
Please don't let my son go to war.

Breakfast At The Cemetery

We had
brunch on the battlefield,
lunch in the morgue,
dinner at the funeral parlor,
breakfast at the cemetery

Dinner Conversation About The Holy Land

For cocktails we had Petron tequila, white Zinfandel and red Burgundy wine.
The conversation was about
fighting over Golan and Gaza,
killing over the Wailing Wall,
fighting over Moses’ Torah,
killing over Mohammed’s Koran.

For appetizers we had Cheddar, Brie and Stinky cheese, three kinds of crackers.
two varieties of olives, fois gras, olive spread, bruschetta and sliced venison sausage.
The conversation was about
fighting over barrels of oil,
killing over whose side God is on,
fighting over Mosques,
killing over Synagogues.

For the entrée we had mushrooms in a butter/wine gravy on toast, barbecued Cornish
hens and pork, steamed buttered asparagus, scalloped potatoes and vegetable soufflé.
The conversation was about
fighting with sticks and stones,
killing with guns and bullets,
fighting for honor and glory,
killing for revenge.

For desert we had Gorgonzola and Blue Cheese, apples, cake, cookies, brandy, sweet
desert, coffee, cream and sugar.
The conversation was about
fighting Jewish women and children,
killing Arab women and children,
fighting that goes on forever,
killing that will never end.

The host asked, “Is anyone still hungry?

Symphony Of Peace

I am listening to a CD called “Prayer For Peace.”
It is a compilation of Native American Music.
I think, how can a people so ill-treated,
nearly annihilated in their own land,
still manage to create such rich and beautiful music,
dedicated to peace within us all,
and peace on earth for us all.

The high smooth pitch of the flute,
replaces the loud blaring blast of the gun.

The deep echo beating of the drum
drowns out the exploding bang of the bomb.

The wail scale of the guitar
overshadows the wails of grieving mothers.

The ethereal timbre of the violin
squeezes anger into acceptance.

The soothing resonance of the cello
reaches into the deaf ears of rulers.

The trumpets pierce the hate
and the trombones ring out prejudice.

The melodic tinkling of the piano
trickles like the first spring waterfall.

The soft harmony of children’s voices
drowns the loud cries of attack.

The bloodstained steel of the silver sword
melts into puddles reflecting rays of sunlight.

If you listen in the silence you can hear
the sun rising over the meadow,
the corn breaking through the soil,
the flower opening its petals to the sky,
the spider weaving its web,
the fawn lifting to its feet,
the kitten being licked clean.

When there is music everywhere,
the composers are the visionaries,
the poets are the leaders,
the painters are the generals,
the children are the keepers of truth,
the only hunger is felt before breakfast,
the only food grown is organic,
the only rifles bought are by antique collectors,
the only songs sung are songs of peace,
the only books written are books of love,
the only stories told are tales of hope,
there is no hell on earth,
heaven is in a baby’s eyes.

The Ballad Of Danny Roberts

I went to fight a useless war
across a black, red sea.
A man without an education
taught me how to kill,
he told me what to be.

Kill and fight, hate and love,
it's all the same to me.
Bomb and blast, smash and crash,
it’s all the same to me,
all the blame’s on me.

Don't make my mother proud, Sir.
Don't make her proud of me.
Don't give her any medals, Sir.
I'm just a memory,
an eighteen-year-old memory.

I might have made a boy, Sir.
His soul, it waits for me.
I might have made a girl, Sir,
But, now she’ll never be,
now they'll never be.

Don't want no stars and stripes, Sir,
to lie on top of me.
I'd rather have the dirt, Sir,
the earth and sun on me,
the earth and sun on me

The Saxophone Player

It was 1968.
I was eighteen,
fresh out of high school.
The draft was still on.
Two doctors examined me.
One said I was a no-go.

I remember one boy from my hometown.
He was quiet,
played the saxophone in the high school marching band.
After graduation, he was drafted,
went to Vietnam and was killed.

A few years later,
during our annual Memorial Day parade,
my old high school marching band passed by me.
When I saw the saxophone player,
I couldn’t help thinking,
this kid had no idea whose place he took.

I hate those people who did everything to avoid the draft,
and now they’re the Hawks.
I still have guilt.
You know how I feel.
Some other eighteen-year old replaced me.
What happened to him?

In my dreams that night
and every night since,
I see a marching band.
And when I look for the Saxophone player,
he isn’t there.

To Be Nineteen

When I was nineteen,
I was happy.
I could drink
in most states.

Gee Whiz, Golly!
When I was nineteen,
I could drive a car.
You can even (ha ha) vote.

Big Shit! All is nothing
when you wake up
each morning
with the fear
that a note of death
will be brought
to your door
by the friendly postman.

The flowers of gold in your hair,
The sea of blue in your eyes,
does not relieve this fear.

It's not enough to be good.
You must want to kill
to be allowed to live.

To be nineteen
and not wanting
to be nineteen.
This is the feeling
you've instilled
in your young,
oh great land of freedom
and pursuit of happiness.

Grab my hand,
little brother.
I won't let you sink
into that damned river of blood.

Step on my shoulders,
little brother.
It makes us both
a little stronger.

Take my love little brother.
It's a lousy world little brother.
Take my love.

It's a lousy world little brother.
Take my love.
It's a lousy world.

To be nineteen
and not wanting
to be nineteen.
This is the feeling
you've instilled
in your young,
oh great land of freedom
and pursuit of happiness.

To be nineteen
and not wanting
to be nineteen.
This is the feeling.

Where Is The Peace Train

In front of a Penn Station bathroom door,
I found a load of shit upon the floor.
Written in six-inch letters on the toilet wall,
" Hell no, we still can't afford to go."

I thought baby boomers
had invented the end of hate and war.

We gathered together as tribes,
colorful, pulsating throngs of
powerful and sign waving humanity.

We marched a hundred-thousand strong,
whenever freedom fighting forces
were challenged by the criminally insane.

But, this morning I had to ask the conductor,
" Where is the peace train?"

Most of my generation,
evaporated from the center stage,
wait on the platform,
ghostly, haggard faces,
buried into The Times.

Limericks and hollow eyes
masquerade the creases of age.
Designer labels and mustaches
have replaced Levi's
with a faded denim dream.