Home Fires Burning
Empty clothespins hung like readied soldiers off to slaughter
Our lives were like that then —
Harsh winters where clothes froze on lines
While troops lined up behind barricades too fragile to save them
Only the bitter cold prevented decimation or the will of God
We carried in coal in the mornings
Our hands and faces smeared with dust
We’d dip our fingers into ice cold water to wash it all away
While soldiers smeared icy mud on their clothes and faces
To blend in with the trenches.
Mother relied on rations to feed six kids and one on the way
Biscuits and water gravy were standards
If we didn’t want to starve, unlike starving
Soldiers who barely had enough bread and beans.
In the evenings, we chopped wood to bank the fires at night
Kindling first, then as much deadwood as we could find
Wet wood sat under tarps to dry
And green wood sat out in the elements to age
Like unseasoned soldiers, so green they cried at night.
They’ll toughen up real soon, if they survive.
We did whatever it took to keep the home fires burning,
While the men froze along in the ditches,
Some dying, some living, all wishing to go home.
And the winter’s angry breath blew —
Abandoned clothespins, soldiers slaughtered in war.
© 2013 Lori Carlson