“Battleground” by William Trowbridge

William Trowbridge


It showed the War was as my father said:
boredom flanked by terror, a matter of keeping
low and not freezing. You wore your helmet

square, he said, not “at some stupid angle,
like that draft dodger Wayne,” who died
so photogenically in The Sands of Iwo Jima.

Those nights I heard shouts from the dark
of my parents’ room, he was back down
in his foxhole, barking orders, taking the fire

that followed him from France and Germany,
then slipped into the house, where it hunkered
in the rafters and thrived on ambush. We kept

our helmets on, my mother and I,
but there was no cover, and our helmets
always tilted. He’d lump us with the ones

he called “JohnDoes,” useless, lazy.
We needed to straighten up and fly right,
pick it up, chop chop, not get “nervous

in the service.” We’d duck down like G.I.s
where German snipers might be crouched
in haylofts, their breaths held for the clean shot.

“Bang,” my father said, “the dead went down,
some like dying swans, some like puppets
with their strings cut.” I wanted to hear more,

but he’d change the subject, talk about
the Pennant, the Cards’ shaky odds, how Musial
was worth the whole JohnDoe lot of them.

from Rattle #44, Summer 2014


William Trowbridge: “One day while studying for my PhD comps, I came across a group of Howard Nemerov poems in the old Brinnin and Read anthology. I was bitten, seriously bitten, couldn’t stop going back to them—their music, their intelligence, their electrical charge. And then I wrote a poem. That afternoon, I was, to use a John Crowe Ransom word, ‘transmogrified’ from a budding scholar into a seedling poet. But I had neither the time nor the money to go through an MFA program. So, after graduation and in my ‘spare time’ from teaching, I continued my poetry-writing education in the college of monkey-see-monkey-do, happily learning from the poems of great, hand-picked tutors. I still attend.” (website)

Rattle Logo