Linda Kulp Trout

Monday, August 1, 2011

Poetry Friday: The Silence of War

Every year my students write letters to our soldiers thanking them for the job they do. The kids really put their hearts into the letters and show their support for our military men and women. I can't imagine how lonely they must be so far from home, especially during the holidays.

I was about the age of my students durng the war in Vietnam. It was a time in my life that I'm not proud of. I had the chance to ease the loneliness of one young solider, but I didn't. Something as simple as writing a letter could've made all the difference. Silence can be the worst weapon of all.

After reading the letters my students so wrote, I started working on this poem trying to figure out what I was thinking back then.

The Silence of War

We only dated once before
you enlisted in the Army.

You chose to go.
I kissed you good-bye.

Letters arrived, unexpectedly
postmarked Da Nang
long, lonely letters from Vietnam
long, lonely letters from you.

What did you mean, wait for you?
I wasn't your girl.
At seventeen, I was thinking
pale blue prom dresses

high school graduation
burgundy cap and gown—
not Army dress greens
or camouflage fatigues.

You were on the other side
of the planet— foreign to me
I couldn't promise to wait for you
Your world was not my world.

I didn't want to hurt you.
I didn't want you to think
I was waiting for you—
I didn't write back.

For fifteen months
your letters came.
I read every one.
I saved every one—

Then nothing.
No letters.
No news of you.

Yesterday, I saw you
home on leave.
You looked my way,
I turned in shame.

I could’ve made a difference
I could’ve let you know
I really did care—
Even now, I remain silent.


  1. Linda,

    This poem is really touching. It was my generation who fought in the Vietnam War. I lost a good friend. He was killed in Vietnam in 1969--my first year of teaching.

  2. Kelly and Elaine, thank you for your comments. I was a teenager during the worst of the Vietnam War. It seemed so far away, and we really didn't support our soliders. I'll always regret that.

  3. This touched me, Linda. What a brave poem, and what a message for us all. A.