Tomorrow We Must Die

There, far on the distant horizon, the inky blackness
of the night is broken by the faint glows of campfires of
the enemy. So many fires, too many fires…the quietness
of our camp is due to the realization that the gods above

are our only hope for victory in tomorrow’s battles.
An old warrior sits silently sharpening his sword.
“Tomorrow we will die gallantly!” A young soldier rattles
his armament. “Guard my back, for I shall be well forward.”

The old warrior sits silently sharpening his sword.
The young man approaches. “Are you ready to die, old man?
There is honor in dying a hero’s death in the effort toward
guarding peace and the security of our homeland. Can

you think of a better way to spend tomorrow?” The old
soldier stops sharpening his sword, fixing the youth in his stare.
“During three campaigns, in countless battles, I’ve killed untold
men, each time in the name of peace and security. Thus I care

none for your bravado, your strutting about spouting foolhardiness
from youth. Were the gods willing I would spend tomorrow making
love to my wife. She’d bathe from me this stench of war. She’d caress
my scarred body with soft hands, rub me with scented oils, awakening

in us both passion too long prevented by my absence fighting to keep
peace. We’d share the pleasures of our bodies, lie together and talk
of times past, idling away the day with heavy sex and light sleep,
before gathering family and friends for an evening feast. We’d walk

under the stars, these very stars glimmering overhead of us now,
and laugh, kiss, and plan our future to make it as happy as our past.
Instead, on the morrow, in the company of heroes and fools, somehow
I must march bravely into battle, knowing it shall surely be my last.

It is the way of the world. Rulers, politicians, and generals declare
wars in which they do not bleed and die. Simple men such as I,
who had rather be at home with wife and family, are often unaware
of the true cause or the outcome of the battles in which we must die.

In the enemy camp it is much the same. Generals plot; soldiers pray.
They pray for peace and for the security for their beloved homeland.
They pray to survive to see their loved ones again for another day.
At those fires, sitting silently, sharpening their swords, are many a man.”

Harry Edward Gilleland      02.08.03