war’s screaming night

Sky roils its clouds into ragged pillows
spitting jagged blades of light
to reveal a rusted-out river
mirroring rolling flashes of sky.

Foreign soil stretches
under years of rubble
as she mans her position
surveying shattered landscapes
that haunt her dreams
every chance she sleeps.

Straighten up and fly right,
her father used to say.
Straighten up and fly right,
face the light of day.

A bridge under siege
reignites broken connections.

Beneath its girders,
she listens to the cadence
of lightning and bombs.

A bridge under siege
shakes her foundations
drags up beginnings
takes her to a nod
when her father said,
Straighten up and fly right,
face the light of day.

Vengeance softens over bridges home,
forgetting for a moment
the killing
forgetting for a moment
the look in a soldier’s eye,
frosting her present with memories past.

Straighten up and fly right.
She straightens her spine and she smiles.

At that moment, a hand covers her mouth
and pulls her head back to eyes glazed dark with victory .
A blade cuts the width of her throat,
spilling her life in soil
a million miles from home.

Her memories fade into the quiet of war’s screaming night.

Brenda Warren 2011

This week’s Sunday Whirl words were pulled from The End and the Beginning by Wislawa Szymborska. His piece discusses the idea that someone needs to be there to clean up the messes wars create in a landscape that eventually grows over and is forgotten. Directly after reading Szymborska’s piece and pulling the words on Friday night I wrote “war’s screaming night.”

The ending of this piece was born from a need to use the word “blade” in the wordle. It shocked me when it came, but I left it there through three editings.  It leaves me uneasy.

23 thoughts on “war’s screaming night

  1. I think war and its consequences should leave us feeling at least uneasy, Benda. And this certainly does that very well. Thanks again for your continuing wordles. I am late this week as we were out of town all weekend.


  2. The juxtaposition of “victory” with the violence of her death gives the ending a haunting majesty somehow. Brenda, your poems always seem contextualised, like this one on war. That’s an admirable quality of your writing.


  3. You have done a splendid job of portraying the chaos created by war. Brutal, chilling ending. It always amazes and thrills me to see where your wordle words take each one of us. This wordling is a brilliant concept and I appreciate your commitment to keeping it going.


  4. A wonderful, truthful poem. Death is the reality of war. War is the reality of man. Whether it be worldwide, international, national, religious, racial, tribal or one man against another, man was born to battle. Those who think pacifism is the answer are destined to die at the hands of those who don’t. It’s sad, but a nation of pacifists can be overrun by a squad willing to kill without compunction.


  5. The ending shocked me too – but then, I’m a sucker for triumphant, happy endings. It’s a strong poem, Brenda, regardless of whether you leave the ending as is or change it.


  6. Very powerful, you made excellent use of the wordle words in this strong and vivid piece.

    I really liked the repeat of…
    “Straighten up and fly right,
    face the light of day.”

    Well wordled!


  7. Brenda, generally I don’t like to read other wordle poems before mine is posted. This is poignant and heartbreaking in its truth. The world is indeed are frightening place, wars raging all around us. Surprisingly, I wrote to these words about the civil war before I even knew where they came from, hum? It always delights me to see where everyone goes with the words. Excellent poem!



  8. That was a sad end and I too had great difficulty with the word ‘blade’!! When we talk of a global village, global unity etc ‘war’ seems so uncivilized and gruesome!!


  9. I thought this was tremendous Brenda. I thought the remembered words of her father “Straighten up and fly right, face the light of the day.” seem to give hope through the poem until that brutal ending – but isn’t that the way of war.
    I thought (in my humble opinion) that the two ‘blades’ worked well – the first one ‘jagged blades of light’ fits in well with her father’s words ‘face the light of the day’. Then at the end, as she ‘straightens up’ a blade cruelly deprives her of life.
    A great read. Thanks.


  10. War is war. There is no thrill but pain and suffering. The sad part is that those who get killed or suffer are not the ones who made the decision to go to war.The same with the environment. Once abused it takes generations to bring it back to shape as before. It is sad!
    Excellent verse!



  11. We only have to see how Gaddhafi met his end to see humans are in no way shape or form civilised beings. We may think we are civilised but we are so far from it, even now and, we are getting worse instead of better. When hundreds of people can drive and walk by a little 2 year old baby girl who has been run over and left there, injured, and ignored, and then run over again and still ignored, what chance do we have in this world of developing, compassion, love, and kindness, instead of idealistic wars and breeding hatred.


    • Yes, the world is sad, and human beings carry evil intentions. Individually, we can practice kindness. It is the bottom line rule in my classroom. Practice kindness. Laud its merits. Send it sailing from your hearts into the world. ha!


  12. Unsettling, yes. But valid thoughts nonetheless. The fact that ‘blade’ forced its way through three edits must tell us that it was right to be there. My Wordle was sad, but I had read neither your nor Wyslawa’s poem before I wrote it. Both of those are facets of the horrible truths of war.


  13. This is an unsettling poem, Brenda. You used the word ‘blade’ twice. Once as I used it (stanza one) and once toward the end. As I read about all the destruction of the physical landscape, I wasn’t prepared for the poem to include human death; but, of course, all wars do.


    • Whoa…indeed I did use blade twice. Thanks for pointing that out, Mary. Even in editing, I didn’t notice it. The death is a shocker, but you’re right, all wars do include death. If not the point, a glaring result.


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