Death is Not Always Dying

by Susan Giesen

Why are you so afraid?

It's all this war talk.
My sons will all be draft age
very soon. I can't bear the
thought of them--

Of them what? Are you afraid
of them being shot?

No.

Are you afraid of them being
disabled, losing an arm, a leg,
being blinded?

It's not that. I could live with
that and so could they.

It must be death that you fear
so much. The thought of losing
them.

No, it's much worse than that.

What could be worse than that?

I've seen soldiers come home.
It's the look in their eyes. My
sons have never had that look,
and I don't ever want to see it
in their eyes.

What look?

Emptiness. Like their souls
have been raped, and their spirits
smothered. They are walking tombs.

You see too many movies, and
read too much.

If I had never seen a movie
or read one book, I would still
know that this is true. My heart tells
me that my children can die
for another, but they cannot kill
without becoming their own enemy.

There are more ways than one
to be dead.

Reprinted with permission from Grounds for Peace, an anthology of writings by the members of Women Against Military Madness (WAMM) and Women Poets of the Twin Cities, 1994 (US $10). WAMM is a 10-year old grassroots women's peace organization that has pioneered empowerment training for women. Contact: WAMM, 310 E. 38th St., Suite 225, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55409, USA.