My Son                                                 © David Campbell

He went away to war, my son,
a conflict they all say we’ve won,
yet now I know the awful cost,
that war, for him, is surely lost.
For he just lies there each long day,
a symbol of the price we pay,
a man now deaf, and dumb, and blind,
a victim of his shattered mind.
His ears don’t hear, his eyes don’t see,
his words have all been lost to me,
so I must wait and hold his hand,
and do my best to understand
the daily headlines, bold and black,
that say the campaign’s well on track,
while politicians strut the stage,
and I must watch, consumed with rage.
They talk of pain and sacrifice,
as if their platitudes suffice
to make my boy alert and well,
not sentenced to a living hell.
For he is not alone in here,
he’s one of those who disappear
behind high walls, kept out of sight,
imprisoned in eternal night.
He did his duty, as he should,
with visions of a greater good,
persuaded that the course pursued
would bring a change of attitude.
But his beliefs have been betrayed,
and he is left in trauma’s shade,
as I confront the here and now
with feelings I can’t disavow.
They send our children overseas
to satisfy a need to please
America, to fight its wars
against some foreign hostile cause
the West can never comprehend
in conflicts that may never end.
For ‘intervention’, over there,
becomes ‘invasion’…and despair.
He could not tell a friend from foe,
where tribal feuds from long ago
distorted all he heard and saw,
for hatred was the only law.
And when his bullets found their prey
he could not keep the pain at bay,
the guilt that haunts his crippled mind…
the families they left behind.
His name is on no honour roll,
he’s part of that much greater toll
a war extracts, the sick and maimed,
the silent ones who go unnamed,
forgotten but for those who weep
beside their beds and cannot sleep
without the dreams that set them free,
of all that now can never be.
These men are ghosts, alive yet not,
the warriors that time forgot,
abandoned to their lonely bed,
their eulogies as yet unsaid.
But all the words in all the world,
and all the flags that might be furled
at funerals, with battles won,
can’t give me back my precious son.