No Soldier Story

By Ish Klein Ish Klein
                          These ghost soldiers live underground with the vast
                                          oversupply of castoff lanterns.
                              If one were to take broadsword to one of these

                              orange-bearded mammoth men of rough hew,
                                   he would laugh at the passing metal,
                                            make light of entrails.

                            For years I have been here without a clear map.
                             That hopes should dim as days go on above is
                                     natural I suppose, what do I know?

                                        I am dressed like one of them.
                             The thick walls quake but stay soundproof.
                                            I fear my fists vestigial.

                             These soldiers’ own panic is taking up rugs
                            finding filigrees of the former world beneath,
                                 e.g., a locket with their mongrel’s mush.

           They will freeze, then feign noncom; smacking barrels of burgundy
                               with pistol butts. I react comme squirrel:
                   fleeing their reach to the chamber out of the impact area.

                One loved me until I asked if he worried about what must be
      happening without us. Well, his lips did narrow, hand abandoned my knee,
                         blah, blah big mouth were his departing words.

                    I will not say with shame that I came from nothing.
                        Someone paved my first breakthrough at least,

                        one time calling it love. And I will stand by that
                                as it applies to my primary makeup.

Ish Klein, “No Soldier Story” from Union!. Copyright © 2009 by Ish Klein. Reprinted by permission of Canarium Books.

Source: Union! (Canarium Books, 2009)

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Poet Ish Klein

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Relationships, Love, Social Commentaries, War & Conflict

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Ish  Klein


Poet and filmmaker Ish Klein grew up in Long Island and was educated at Columbia University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Klein’s poetry collections include Moving Day (2011) and Union! (2009).
With both vulnerability and humor, Klein’s lyrical poems measure the strata of daily social and literary engagement. “Klein’s work consistently explores the conflict between authenticity and literary convention,” observes Boston . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Love, Social Commentaries, War & Conflict

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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