Everything was there,
the plates, the cutlery,
the napkins, the wine
and the carving set.
Just four sat down to dinner.
A mother, a father,
a sister, a widow.
The boys had gone to war.
Only one a soldier.
A grace was said,
the meal was served
and two empty plates
remained in place.
They were for the boys.
For the one who sought war,
following his father’s dream,
an officer in full command,
until the sniper’s bullet picked him out.
One life ended, all too short.
For the brother who refused to fight,
but found his battlefield place
tending the wounded: and the dead:
until the IED tore him in two.
Two lives ended, two weeks apart.
A turkey carved without merriment,
a wine poured, without words,
tears that glisten in saddened eyes,
the father’s with guilt, the mother’s with sorrow.
A widow, bearing child: and no one to call daddy.
She thinks of what was going to be,
the shattered dreams of a growing family,
happiness, houses and holidays:
never-ending togetherness, gone.
The sister looks from empty plate to empty plate.
In spirit her brothers remain:
with vibrant memories of happier times
she fights the grief of total loss,
a battle lost, tears flowing down her cheeks.
Next year, there’ll be no empty plates.
The grief will never completely fade,
two young lives will always be remembered,
the needless waste that nobody wanted,
nobody could stop, still repeated over and over.
The price of war, where no one really gains.
The agitators, the instigators, the perpetrators:
in the end, what do they win?
A short term of power and glory?
A footnote in our history?
An obituary, when death finds them, too.
And maybe an empty plate, on someone’s table.