I Will Be Home

​A series of let­ters from the bat­tle­field, from a sol­dier to his fiancé wait­ing to hear from him again. ​

A per­for­mance piece from Pune Poetry Slam of August 2014. This poem was inspired by a let­ter from Gernot Knopp to Dorothy Bird, a heart-wrench­ing sto­ry which you can read about here.


Dear Dorothy,
I’ve joined the Air Force.
The black wind has tak­en me aloft,
Into the shad­ow of war that looms in the hori­zon.
Erupting from the womb of our moth­er­land,
Winged like angels, swift as the light­ning,
I race towards the sound of chaos at a moment’s notice.
For hon­or. For glo­ry. For courage. For coun­try.

There’s so much we’ve all left behind —
That wed­ding ring, which hasn’t yet adorned your fin­ger,
And those dreams that we wove with care,
So that our chil­dren of the future could wear them with pride.
There is my dad­dy! Walking on the clouds,
Looking out for us from the sky!
Dorothy, if only you could see me fly!

I can­not lie. My body drifts bro­ken in frac­tured thoughts:
I wor­ry my skin is not bul­let­proof.
But with per­son­al sac­ri­fices, I’ve also gained
A per­son­al trans­for­ma­tion: This uni­form is my pride,
That allows me to slice through the sky
Towards the sound of chaos at a moment’s notice.
For hon­or. For glo­ry. For courage. For coun­try.
For you.

Sincerely yours,

Dear Dorothy,
Times change, peo­ple change,
But you’re the only one who is the same as ever.
Through these let­ters, your voice cuts through
The sounds of sirens and fir­ings, and your writ­ing is poet­ry,
Untainted by gun-smoke.
The black wind guides all the lone­ly souls here,
And in these far-away forests, you’re the only one I can call home.
I miss mom’s cook­ing; it used to make me feel like a fire-breath­ing drag­on.
I miss that obnox­ious, fluffy ball of hap­pi­ness that most peo­ple call “a dog”.
I miss the sen­sa­tion of your soft face that I lov­ing­ly held in these hands…
…These hands.… that are now taint­ed
With the blood of some­one I’ve nev­er met.
No mer­cy. Nothing per­son­al.
Just fol­low­ing orders, and look­ing after my com­rades.
But these ene­mies are much in the same sit­u­a­tion as I am:
Nothing per­son­al. Just fol­low­ing orders, look­ing after for their com­rades.
What is it that real­ly makes us ene­mies?
I don’t want to pull the trig­ger. But I am for­bid­den to ques­tion,
For the sake a duty I wish I did not have to serve.

The black wind guides the lone­ly souls here.
I will be home. I will. My seniors, my com­rades,
And even fear — a con­stant com­pan­ion —
Have taught me how to stay alive.

Sincerely yours,

Dear Dorothy,
It’s been years since I’ve joined the war,
Always in line to look out for the safe­ty of my broth­ers in arms.
But not once have I felt that my sac­ri­fice
Has made any dif­fer­ence back home.
An order to pull the trig­ger needs no jus­ti­fi­ca­tion.
The feet of our troops don’t defend our soil,
Because our lives are spent defend­ing
Our politi­cians and their eco­nom­ic inter­ests.
I’m serv­ing a mas­ter I do not even know.

The pride in our coun­try, our peo­ple, our cul­ture,
Empowers us all. But in me, it also breeds con­tempt
Towards those who speak a dif­fer­ent lan­guage.

I’m not a hero for a child to up to in the skies.
When these hands pulled the trig­ger
To rain hell down upon the refugees and their chil­dren,
When the screams dis­solved into crim­son echoes,
There were no heroes at the time, Dorothy.
There were no heroes.
I have seen things you would not believe, Dorothy.
I have heard things I can­not bring myself to say.

Sincerely yours,

Dear Dorothy,
I’m com­ing home. The war is almost won,
As the ene­my forces retreat into their nests,
Leaving a rift of obliv­ion behind
That swal­lowed names I knew too well.
Dorothy, today I dine with emp­ty chairs where my friends used to sit,
And the silence reveals a dis­tant mock­ing laugh­ter.

The black wind guides all the lone­ly souls here, where Hope dies.
My wings are stur­dy, but my spir­it has grown frag­ile.
As the ash­es of betrayed souls scat­ter in the winds,
I glance above into the abysmal eye of the reaper, and I see…
Nothing. No hon­or. No glo­ry. No courage. No coun­try.
Only the make-believe lines and make-believe fires sink­ing back into the void.

I will stare into that abyss. I will not blink.
I will take this war to its end, and when I do,
Dorothy, the wed­ding ring will no longer remain cold,
And your lips will no longer be deprived of love,
As we re-open the vaults of our dreams.

Your love IS my glo­ry. Your embrace IS my coun­try.
I’m com­ing home, Dorothy! I’m com­ing come!

Always, and for­ev­er yours,

Dear Miss Dorothy.
The war has end­ed. There are no more ene­mies.
So I send you these trea­sures I found by Sgt William’s body.
His forces were locked in an aer­i­al bat­tle, as we tried to escape.
Many of our com­rades per­ished, while he was the last sur­vivor,
His fate was sealed when he attacked our car­go-ship,
Which held anti-air­craft mis­siles.
The pro­jec­tiles smashed into the bomber, killing the pilot.

We buried Sergeant William and his com­rades
With all hon­ours that every sol­dier deserves.
The ashen pic­tures and let­ters we found in his ruins
Remind us of the pre­cious things we’ve all left behind,
For the sake a duty we all wish we did not have to serve.

The black wind guides all the lone­ly souls here,
Cradled in cas­kets — the final des­ti­na­tion.



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