The James Hearst Digital Archive

Home » Poetry » Veteran's Day

Veteran's Day

Text of Poem

How thankful they should be,
the young men I know,
playing their games, excited by girls,
muscle in their language,
voices uneven as their beards.
Thunder on the horizon
breeds no fear in them, hand curved
to catch and throw, to clasp
books, shoulders, breasts,
never the chill steel of bayonet,
nor slimy vines, nor ooze of jungles,
beds in mud, blankets of snow.
How thankful, ears tuned to bellowing
transistors, shrieks and laughter,
teachers’ assignments, coaches’ bark,
not captain’s command, nor sergeant’s shout,
nor machine guns’ clatter, nor the
stealthy step in the dark.
How thankful, their names scribbled
on papers, letters, walls, sign-ups,
not written in stone on a statue
in the town square where pigeons roost
and no one reads them. How thankful,
November 11 is just another day off
when bells and whistles sound at eleven a.m.

They died, goddam it, they died,
the young men for whom the bells toll,
never to have homes or wives or children,
or the comfort of a warm bed.

First Line
How thankful they should be,
Original Pub Location
Original Publication Date
Original Citation
Des Moines Register (11 Nov. 1976) 20a.
Complete Poems
Hearst Collections
Word Count
Poetic Form
Bibliographic Notes

Ward titles poem "Veterans' Day."

Twitter Quote
they died, / the young men for whom the bells toll,