smiley

Smile, Jesus Loves You

He wore no smile. Square jaw, set firm,
taut muscles. Skin like latte, stubble-covered,
(more like fuzz.)
Skin too soft for who he was,
who he pretended to be.
Salvadoran sun backlit the scene
set on the borders of insanity.

elsalvador

Not a game he played that day,
a game his peers in other lands
and other times still play.
This was a game of war.

He stared at us, each one, with eyes
too full of sadness for an almost-child.
Compared our passport photos with reality.

And there, upon the submachine gun’s butt—
a smiley face, a message, too.

I wonder–can he smile today,
and can he still believe?

Earthquake--El Salvador1986
Earthquake–El Salvador
1986

At the height of the civil war in El Salvador, the country suffered a massive earthquake that resulted in much loss of life and many injuries. I spent close to a month there, helping to nurse the wounded not requiring hospitalization. We flew into Guatemala and drove to San Salvador, the capital. On the way, we had to pass through numerous military checkpoints. At one of these stops I observed a young soldier. I’d guess he wasn’t much older than 15 or 16, perhaps younger. There on the butt of his huge machine gun was a smiley face sticker with the words in English that I’ve chosen for the title of this poem.

When will we ever learn?

– Victoria C. Slotto

Invitation: We’d like you to join us – not only as readers – but as writers by putting links to your own anti-war or pro-peace poems in the comment sections. Next week we’ll gather the links together in one post and put them up as a single page headed “Poets  Against War.”  Thank you!

Victoria at the Palm Springs Writer's Expo March 2012
Victoria at the Palm Springs Writer’s Expo March 2012

jr-cover-2VICTORIA C. SLOTTO (Victoria C. Slotto, Author: Fiction, Poetry and Writing Prompts) ~  is an accomplished writer and poet. Winter is Past, published by Lucky Bat Books in 2012is Victoria’s first novel.  A second novel is in process.  Jacaranda Rain — Collected poems, 2012 is available on Amazon, as is the hot-off-the-press nonfiction, Beating the Odds: Support for Persons with Early Stage Dementia. Victoria’s poetry collection and non-fiction book are free to Amazon Prime Members.  Link HERE for Victoria’s Amazon page.

16 thoughts on “POETS AGAINST WAR, #1: The Irony of War by Victoria C. Slotto

  1. A moving poem, I wonder just how many more young children are no longer the child through war? A sad sad story … There are many casualties of War and far too many are the ones that do not make up the statistics of those final death tolls.But who still will carry their scars throughout life..

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  2. Victoria, this is such a moving poem. I love that you pointed out the juxtaposition of the boy soldier and the sticker on his gun, the fact that he was at “real” war instead of the games a child his age might play….so very strange and almost surreal. It should not be reality. When you consider how many wars are fought for religion, it makes it even more potent as an attention getting device.

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  3. This is special, Victoria, and poetry written from direct experience, possibly the most difficult to write, but certainly the best. “Smile, Jesus loves you” is a massive irony and yet an equally massive statement of faith in that boy; a perfect focus of the poem.

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  4. Thank you so much, Jamie, for posting this and for all the comments thus far. Liz, your comment gave me the chills. Such a clear message in answer to “What should I do?” And Niamh, you’ve experienced this! War is a sensitive subject for me since I lost my own father in WWII (never knew him). Because of this I have a great respect for our military men and women, but not the same for those who choose to send them.

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  5. Victoria. This is so extraordinary (so was your poem). This really moved me significantly. You have personally done so much good in this world. I view war as the gretest evil upon earth.I retired in 2003. I have always volunteered until becoming ill in 2010. Back then I did a good bit of board work. But I was bored. So I asked: “What am I supposed to do?” I then had my second spiritual experience (the first being at 27). It was huge, it was shamanic in nature. It was ecstatic, it was painful. It lasted about 6 weeks. I knew that everyone around me thought that I was loosing it … I knew that I wasn’t. The result of this is that I came to learn about war. The experience taught me what war “felt” like to participants and collateral participants. Then I studied war. Then I taught creative writing to veterans. Then I wrote a lot of war poetry. It is my best poetry and the poetry I would like to see published (if I ever did anything like that).

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  6. What pathos in this situation.

    A solid piece, Victoria, I do remember when you posted this originally, quite some time ago. It’s the sort of thing one doesn’t forget.

    Thanks for sharing it here.
    Jamie

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    1. Thank you, Paula! It seems to have changed to an ad for coffee at McDonald’s, but I will alert WP and hope that their ads can be controlled. They might be random. I don’t know, but I appreciate your visit and the alert.

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