They buried the boys
Equal depth for equal death,
Straight lines, row upon reverent row:
Just measures of honor bestowed.

They killed the boys
In random rank and run,
Twisted bodies torched by the sun,
Blind eyes turned heavenward.

We walked in holy silence there,
Like Peter on the water,
Afraid to drown in the blood-sopped earth
Where ashes-in-the-image turn to dust in the air.

The blood…
Of mothers, brothers, fathers, sons

Stirring pain laced with passion –
Passion for the blood-scorched earth

Whose earth is this? Whose blood and bone?
Where boys are buried and men are born?

God, we have a question…

Why can’t we all die in old age with ardent memories for epitaphs?


Richard Stokes is a retired teacher, high school principal, and a former pastor/foreign missionary who has lived in several regions of the United States, in West Africa, and in China. His writing, influenced by early 20th century European writers, is varied in style and theme.