John Ratcliffe, Marshall County, Kansas
I see the signs of spring around me.
Birds have returned
or are passing overhead, flying north.
Flowers are in bloom,
and buds have appeared on the fruit trees.
But I cannot shake this winter.
Though the days grow longer,
I am in darkness.
Though I am home,
the storm of war surrounds me.
I cannot find the beauty
in the blossoms and the buds.
In the singing of the birds,
I hear only the cries
of the wounded and the dying.
The boys clattering through the house
sound like brigades rushing to battle.
Every clang of a pot or pan makes me jump.
Only in the depths of night,
when all is still do I find peace.
There are days I wish I’d died on that battlefield.
Then there would have been only one death,
instead of the pain from my wounds
and the daily deaths I endure.