I Will Be Home

​A series of letters from the battlefield, from a soldier to his fiance 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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