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Margaret Stineback: The Unknown Soldier

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

Women writers on peace and war

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Margaret Stineback
The Unknown Soldier

His dreams have all grown lovely with the years
The bullet-ache within his breast has flown
As have the horrors; the dried, scarlet smears
Upon a comrade’s sleeve, the anguished groan
Of some young prisoner; the rat-a-tat
Of busy, calculating guns; the sound
Of bursting shell, of shouting; and the spat
Of wet French earth when shot ploughed through the ground.

The din has passed away. Now flowers spill
Their quiet petals like a fresh caress.
There is dim relaxation in the thrill
Of cool, rich soil, in the forgetfulness
It fosters. He is like a sleeping boy
Whose brow is damp, with tired brown curls that cling.
He has that same exhaustion, that same joy,
That pure oblivion of everything.

This is the Unknown Soldier. His dear grave
Is hallowed. So we, very grateful, say:
“He signifies the bravest of the brave:
He is above the common run of clay.”
Yet, what is bravery – if it must show
Its potency in carnage? Oh, they tread
The truest road of bravery who go
Along the path of Peace – God’s path – instead!

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