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A Battlefield Full of Mothers

by Doug D’Elia

I’ve passed the point of wondering
How they stand the pain
These boys lying in puddles
Of their own blood,
staring into the haze of war
with glazed over, don’t let me die

Split open teenage boys
crying for mommies
continents away,
because they know
they’ll come,
they always have.

They’ll drop grocery bags,
suddenly feel faint, or gaze off at
the sky, imaging pear shaped womb clouds,
pregnant with warm forest rain, waiting for
their waters to break and splash the earth
with life nourishing amniotic fluid.

Mothers have magical powers
encoded before time was. A 6th or 7th sense
distress beacon of revolving lamps
designed to illuminate potential danger.

Soldiers tell of seeing mothers,
blocking bridges strapped with TNT,
standing near landmines and trip wires.
I’ve seen them in the stress of battle.
I’ve seen those see-through mothers glide over
battlefields wet with blood and birthing fluids.

Astral projections,
mistaken for angels,
kneeling over sons
holding their hand or head.

Flooding their boy with
images of his first baseball glove,
favorite bow and arrows set,
the wooden chemistry box with six
fragile glass test tubes,
and green toy soldiers that
never refused a fight,
never took a casualty,
and never lost a war.

Mothers channel life.
They bring forth children.
The bond is eternal
The severing of a hospital ward
umbilical cord is symbolic.
A shiny silver ethereal cord remains
like a phantom limb, felt long after
the flesh is discarded
as biological waste.
Its purpose served,
a higher order claims priority.

I often feel a maternal divine presence
next to me on the battlefield.
I can glimpse her brilliance in
my peripheral vision

She is here to comfort her children
and if it is time, take them
to a place especially prepared for them.
Other times, only God knows why,
she leaves them in my care
a season longer.

Sometimes I think I can feel the silver cord
connecting us to the divine.
I can sense the love, compassion and grace
ripping swiftly through the umbilical cord,
more calming than any morphine
I can dispense, and

I know the wounded body
of this son
won’t die in my arms,
not today,
not this time.

Doug grew up in Holyoke, Massachusetts, and served as an Air Force medic from 1965-1969. His war related poems have appeared in Evergreen Review, Line of Advance, and Contemporary Haibun. His chapbook “A Thousand Peaceful Buddhas” is available via email through He is co-owner of the Onondaga School of Therapeutic Massage, and a member of the Syracuse Veterans Writers Group.

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