Military Mind

By Charlie Smith b. 1947 Charlie Smith
I wanted to go to military school   
and march, I wanted to grow up   
and be composed and expert   
with a rifle, with tactics and fighting,   
to be safe and courageous among men   
in barracks and on the battlefield.   
I wanted to see my arms hairy and   
corded with muscle at the end of rolled up khaki sleeves.   
I wanted to flex my feet in boots and   
look down at the the dust of battles   
dimming the leather surfaces, the blood slick   
on the rim of the soles. I wanted   
the smell of gunpowder in my nostrils, the grime   
on my face, the washed-out hollow   
love for my comrades found in the foxholes,   
the sad understanding, the requiems   
of late afternoons walking away from the burial site   
with the widow as she cradled the triangulated flag   
like a plowblade in her arms.

Source: Poetry (March 2001).


This poem originally appeared in the March 2001 issue of Poetry magazine

View this poem in its original format

March 2001
 Charlie  Smith


Poet and novelist Charlie Smith was born in Moultrie, Georgia. He attended Phillips Exeter Academy and, after serving in the Peace Corps in Micronesia, earned a BA from Duke University and an MFA from the University of Iowa. He has written five New York Times Notable Books and has received grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. He has also won the . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Social Commentaries, War & Conflict

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Imagery, Free Verse, Refrain

Report a problem with this poem

Your results will be limited to content that appeared in Poetry magazine.

Search Every Issue of Poetry

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.