War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele

when does a war end?

this morning, a war ended for a 26 year old.
son, a husband, a father, a brother.
but just begun, a new war for his loved ones. the un-winable war of loss.

grief is glass shards. embedded in heart muscle.
it cuts the past, the present, the future. ragged, not tidy.
it cuts the three year old son’s, his children’s, his children’s children’s past, present, future.

always the empty place setting at the Christmas table.

this I know.
two years have passed since we lost our 26 year old, our 31 year old.
the glass embedded in us, though somedays ground by the tide, the wearing down of seasons, our grief will never be anything but shards in our hearts. the memory of our beloveds is far too beautiful for forgetfulness.

we see the dead on street corners. they wear the same hat. the same coat as they always have. we see them in a dark pub. they come in the door. head bowed. or sometimes, we follow them through a store or down a street. “why haven’t you called? told me you’re in town? told me that it’s all been a terrible mistake. a dream?”

but it can’t be so. they too would be older now. their hair, their face would have changed. they would be 28, or is it 29? 33 or 34? could it be they’ve aged too? though not nearly as much as we who have grown so damn old without them, we who remain.

“bring them home, bring the soldiers home” my old mother cries over the phone to me this morning when she hears the news of Lt. Boyes. as if this could end a war. though she knows better. a sheaf of her letters to her WWII airman killed on Ex over the Yorkshire Moors in 1943 came back to her this year. she opened it. cried a new grave all over again.

and in the paper this morning. “on a hillside in Spain, the search begins for a murdered poet”. after 70 years they are looking for the remains of Lorca. hoping to finish a war I suppose. though a poet’s words witness bones and grave sites and can never end a war.

when does a war end? when, for that matter, does it begin?

today at noon I lunched with a young medic’s mother. a young medic lost in that terrible summer of ’06.

bright young saver.

she gave me a big bag of hand knit hats for Afghan children, Afghan babies, to take with me when I go. this is where she took her grief. 67,000 little hats. knit by many. 67,000 little heads warmer in cold Afghan winters.

she gave me a hug to give to my brother and his wife.

I ramble on, forgive me…

my condolences to the Boyes Family at this terrible time.

my condolences to the Patricias.

my sympathy with all the families and friends who wait the anxious moments for names, then who sigh with relief when they realize their beloveds are safe, then suffer terrible, terrible guilt for that relief.

my condolences.

5 Comments (Closed)


Absolutely amazing and well put. I have a loved one over there right now. I pray day and night for his safety and anxiously await his return which is still a long time away. I support this mission, and I am proud to be Canadian.

Oct 30 2009 · 13:53


War never ends, per se. Men always find reasons, no excuses, to create more wars, but the creators seldom fight in them. The 224th UK serviceman died yesterday defusing an IED. His war is ended: sadly it is the only way war ends for those who fight in them. Even those who survive never escape. I support those who are sent into danger not of their own making, even if I don’t support the reasons for sending them. May it all end soon, in the best possible way. No more flag-draped coffins, just flag-draped living beings. Keep safe.

Nov 03 2009 · 14:54

Harry Bloomfield

when does a war end? Beautiful, thank you.

Nov 11 2009 · 11:18


I heard this read on CBC today and tears filled my eyes, heart and soul. Tragically beautiful.

With all my heart I hope that the need for you to write on this subject of sadness will end and that mothers, fathers, siblings, children, friends and lovers may be able to answer the phone and the door without fear. Until you turn to other topics I hope that your writings fill others as they have me.

Nov 11 2009 · 13:20

Joanne Schmidt

I heard you reading on the CBC today, Remembrance Day. I knew about War Artists, especially those in earlier wars. Your poetry certainly sheds light on the experiences of those at war and those left behind. I wrote down your website address and have taken time to look at it. I’m looking forward to reading more of your poetry and to see how your imbedded experiences are expressed in future poems. I regret that I am now retired from teaching high school English, since I think that students would have appreciated your poetry. Thanks for sharing your gifts. Joanne

Nov 11 2009 · 15:40

About This Page

The page you're reading contains a single diary entry entitled when does a war end?. It was posted here on October 29, 2009.


Complete diary archive