White Flag

White Flag

Day one:

We went out

Into that boiling hell-hole

Of wind burned



Laughing –

Boasting –

Confident –

Like all young men

When they do

What they haven’t

done before.

We’d win.

We knew.

For young men cannot die

(Or such young men believe)

Night one:

Snake bite

In a hellish night

Suffered Randalls.

Snake died

– big snake

– black

– small spot

on the back

of its shattered head –

Still young

Still sure

Still laughed,

But Randalls limped a little

When he talked

And we shivered

As we grinned.

Day two:

We limped

As we laughed

On our blistered feet

In the grinding




Though we killed the bite

Randalls’ leg infected.

Dusty scorpions

Bathing dragons

Crunching underfoot

Soft hair on our faces

Stiffening in the

blazing wind

Strong in the challenge

We laughed.

Night two:

Slept well

In a hollow

in the crazy sand

Laughing in our dreams

As on occasion we won

Randalls slept

Though the sand

Ground deep

In the widening

festering wound

Sometimes whimpered

While the shifting

Cold sand

Covered us.

Day three:

We woke

With the sand

and the sun

in our eyes –

Red, grinding eyes

Grinned at each other

Croaked at each other

Buried Randalls

– aged quickly

For young men cannot die

(or so young men believe)

Set out again

In the granite forest

At the base

of the black plateau

Hot sun raked us

Like the cats

of the hungry plateau

We drank our water




Suddenly it was gone

Grinning slightly

Looked up

At the black heathen outline

Watching as the


pitiless sun

picked at out

glittering eyes.

Night three:

Black clouds

Choked in a

Sea of boulders

Granite needles

Pierced through the night




And how we prayed

for the light

Windstrung fingers

In the frozen darkness

Strumming us

in our sleep

Cold as the

Kiss of



Sandstone cliffs

Stand out

Against a pale

burning sky

Painful flashes

– slashes –

Of a long-dead storm

Flag barely


White flag

Nearly covered in sand

Like attempted truce

To the cruel sun

the sand

black cliffs

red wind

And pale, burning sky.

I think a big part of the inspiration for this poem came from listening to the sad stories my dad told of his experiences in Korea, during the Korean War. After ten months in the front lines and having seen so many of his friends die, he was determined that none of us would ever go through the same experience. For him, though he never complained, the horror was something he lived with his entire life. Although I wrote this poem many years ago, it is still dedicated to all the young men who have faced such horrors and given their lives on foreign soil for freedom and for those who continue to do so today. Incidentally, Dad didn’t really like this poem.

© David H. (Dave) Cottrell

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