Do not call them “heroes”
if they have done your killing for you.
Say that they have done your bidding;
say they were your “soldiers.”
Say that you have trained them well:
They are the oiled machinations of war,
performing as expected.
Refrain from saying “professionals,”
and the usual nonsense about “surgical strikes.”
They were never doctors and nurses
in starched, white linens.
The best heroes are dead ones—
mortified and mortared.
They neither complain nor contradict.
They don’t re-live “friendly fire” incidents,
the sonofabitch sargeant-sadist,
nor the rapist in their midst.
They don’t see again
the faces of traumatized children.
Their bones stretch to attention under the sod.
The man and woman who will kill and injure
because some fool tells them to
are just little spin-off fools.
No act born of ignorance is heroic.
Heroes are sensible, not imbeciles.
They dispel myths; they neither create
nor perpetuate them.
The fully manifested hero,
aware of his power and dignity,
is more than human, is humane.
Heroes don’t talk about heroes.
They need no confetti showered in their faces.
They question; they learn; they challenge; they act
according to their own honed principles:
What is truth? for example;
what is honor?