“A Tale of Two Soldiers”: A Poem

The wheat was red when we first met.


Bodies were sprawled all across the field; 

you could walk without touching the ground.


We had a wheat field back home.

 I used to run through it; 

my long skirt billowed effortlessly in the wind.

 But those days are long gone.


My hair was pulled back inside my cap. 

Nobody questioned me.


The day had been long. 

But night was falling,

and we had lost many men.


You were in uniform; 

the enemy’s uniform.


You were standing alone in the field;

 your face stained with blood 

and tears.


I reached for my rifle. 


You heard me.


Our gaze locked for what seemed to be miles.


Across the field I walked, carefully, 

until I saw the fearful whites of your eyes.


Apart from everyone else wearing that uniform, 

you were not the enemy.


Your name was James.


I never told you mine.


You were standing beside your brother. 

He used to tell good stories, 

you said.


I had a brother.

He used to play the fiddle, 

I said.


I went to fight in his place 

when he died of pneumonia.


You said you were scared to die. 

I was too.


Death was everywhere.


A white branch of wheat lay between us. 

The only sign of life.


You gave it to me. 

You hoped it would keep me safe

from gunfire.


I put it in my pocket.


I should have given it to you.


You gave me this look. 

A smirk arose on your face.


In spite of myself I smiled back; 

it reminded me of my brother.


Just for a moment, I felt safe. 

The weight of gunshots, 

thick clouds of smoke,

and battle cries 


for that moment.


I turned to leave. 

You grabbed my hand 

and pulled me back.


I promised you 

I would stay safe. 

I sealed that promise with a kiss.


I could not sleep. 

Your fearful eyes haunted me 

through the night.


Day finally broke

on that early July morning. 

The sun’s warmth reminded me of you.


We had control of the high ground. 

The only way you could go 

was up


towards me. Towards our guns and cannons.


Your men were spread a mile wide. 


We were given the order to fire;


I never pulled the trigger.


There was nowhere to hide.


 I was done fighting.


I took out the wheat from my pocket 

and prayed.


Dear God, 

spare him.


Half of your men fell back or fell forever. 

I prayed you didn’t even stumble.


A bullet whizzed past my head; 

I ducked out of the way.


When I looked up I saw you 

marching straight towards us.


I stashed the wheat away. 

You broke into a run


towards me. Towards our guns and cannons.


You ran so far up that hill 

I could see the whites of your eyes. 


But they were not fearful anymore; 

they were fiery 

with passion.


Amidst the screams and gunfire 

I yelled your name.


I did not see the bullet. 

But alas, 

it had your name on it.




There were so many things 

you could have done 

if you had more time.


Sometimes love 


meant to last. 

But I never knew 

it could come 

and go 

so fast.


After the day’s work, 

I was exhausted. 

You took my breath away in the worst way.


I decided to walk 

back to the field. 

The enemy was long gone.


They say all’s fair in love and war. 

But someone played a little too dirty,

 and we both got cheated.


I stepped over many souls; 

none of them were yours.


I gave up. 


I turned around to leave.


Your leg tripped me.

 I looked down to see your lifeless body.


Your fearful white eyes were wide open; 

I knelt beside you

and closed them.


I don’t know if you saw me. 

But if you did, 

I kept the promise.