Petar Ojdrovic

A Story of War

In a large bleak office, in a huge concrete building,

Eleven men sit, debating and bickering.

Men who will be noted in the books of history

For sitting in an office and moving pieces on a chessboard.


Four thousand miles away, a group of men is waiting,

Anxiously waiting for the words of those who sit and talk.

Fidgeting, knowing that their doom is close at hand,

Shivering, cold in the dark, insignificant and unrecognized.


Suddenly, the order comes. It is simple. Retake the position.

It travels through many people, until at last; it reaches the group of men.

A simple order, three words in length, turns this day into a lifetime.

The men, brave and strong, do as they are told, always following orders.


They advance mile by mile. Then the first shell hits. Then another.

Those in front are instantly extinguished, like candles blown out by a furious wind.

Those in the rear duck behind their only protection; a lonely ditch along the road.

Slowly, the hearing returns, and the dust clears, but all know: doom is at hand.


Over the side of the ditch, falls a young man.

His hands are groping at a cavity, where his chest once was.

He is stumbling in the sand, leaving a vivid trail, calling for his family.

For his dear mother, his sister and father, whom he will never see again.


He remembers the smell of freshly baked bread, and that of ripe tomatoes.

He smiles a last time, rooted in the belief that he is sharing a meal with his family.

He trips, and falls to the ground,

And a human soul is gone. Dust in the wind.


Beyond the ditch, lies a man. Broken beyond help.

With a sudden rush, he props himself up with his arms, trying to stand.

He glances down, and where his legs should have been,

There are now only tatters and splinters. He is devoid of all hope.


Men like him; thousands upon thousands are strewn over the field.

The ground of which they lie, dusty not an hour earlier,

Now lies soaked, drenched by the blood of those who dared to cross it.


The orders keep returning from way up above.

Keep pressing, think nothing of retreat.

No matter what the cost, the position must be retaken.

That is all. Over and out.


From inside the ditch, all that can be heard are the piercing screams.

Screams of incomprehensible pain and suffering,

And above all, hopelessness.

Retake that damn position or die trying!


More and more men keep coming,

And endless supply of unimportant lives,

Whose only purpose in this world,

Is to retake the position on the hill.


Some distance down the ridge,

A young soldier, no older then 18,

Lies shaking. That battle around his,

Has broken his mind.


He lies there while a never-ending torrent of men,

Keep falling over the side of the ditch.

Men who no longer look like men,

Men who no longer act like men.


A sob of anguish is heard from away,

And a grenade is pressed to the mouth.

Eight shots of morphine are taken, where two will kill,

And blackness, glorious blackness replaces the accursed ridge.


These men, those who lived,

Return home. Altogether changed.

Sleepless nights, hearing the dying calls of friends,

Haunt them for all eternity.


And yet still, these men who sacrificed so much,

Will never be remembered for their efforts,

Yet those who killed them, those in an office,

Will be remembered for all eternity, saviors of the nation.


They will return to their homes,

Snuggle up with their loved ones,

Enjoying undisturbed sleep,

Untroubled by the problems of the world.


Old men fight wars while young men die in them.


Copyright © 2002-2011 Student Publishing Program (SPP). Poetry and prose © 2002-2011 by individual authors. Reprinted with permission.