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Study War No More
Peace Poems and Service Songs by H. Paul Shuch

War Zone 2000: Colombo
copyright 2000

Guerrillas on the north side of the island
Seldom leave the safety of the mountains
Except for the occasional foray
To the capital, such as the one last week,
An effort to assassinate the President,
Or blow up some colonial hotel.
Who am I that I dare to flirt with danger?
I knew the situation when I came here.
Said nothing, lest I might alarm my mates,
Did nothing, so as not to let fear rule me,
Changed nothing that could even tempt the fates.

Arriving, I have found myself transported
Back in time to quite a different war zone
In which I was the one all clad in khaki
Who had to make the life and death decisions.
The armed militia guarding every corner,
Machine gun bunkers scattered through the city,
And checkpoints on the road at frequent intervals
Remind me this is not at all the carefree
Tourist destination of my choice.
I knew this when applying for my visa,
Yet still refused to heed the inner voice.

Upon the highway leading from the airport,
My car is stopped by soldiers at a roadblock.
They scrutinize with care my driver's papers,
But never even ask to see my passport.
A few miles down the road, another roadblock,
And this time the militia bid the driver
Step outside the vehicle, as they search him.
Should I step out too, I ask the driver?
No, he says, stay seated. They have got
Little interest in you; you are white.
Only then I realize he is not.

And here, I undergo a transformation!
No longer am I middle aged and cautious,
But find myself renewed to youthful vigor
I feel myself invincible, immortal,
More fully in this world, far more awake
Than I've been for at least a quarter century.
Have I been in a slumber half my life?
When I return to peace and wealth and safety
I know that I must must put an end to fleeing
All danger and uncertainty before me.
If not, there's very little point in being.

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this page last updated 14 June 2007
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