Gordon Adams


Is war the ultimate test of manhood?
Or is fighting just one hell of a hoot?
Or is it both, and neither,
And I don’t talk about it
If you weren’t there.

Act I
How do we prepare a boy to kill?
Still the repugnance,
Erase his family, his politics.
His vanities and habits
The inattentions of boyhood.

Teach him honor, courage and brotherhood,
The manly art of pulling the trigger;
The game of hunt, pursue, and “paint;”
And how to wring a chicken’s neck
With his bare hands.

Take a boy out of the world.
Deconstruct him, render him, 
Until only his discipline, his rifle,
And his unit matter.
He is a soldier.

Act II
War is a culture of revenge.
I watch my buddies die,
Or take a savage bullet and live.
“I love you, man.”
Why you, and not me?

Fighting is raw;
Courage, honor, and grief
Turn to rage.
Release the valve!
Become revenge!

Truth is not the issue.
Loyalty is what matters.
Revenge is my power.
I know no shame, no guilt,
No complicity, no dishonor.

Killing is reprisal,
It is either him, or me.
Quick reprisal makes us brothers 
And the enemy behind the curtain
Is fungible.

Walter Reed becomes the war.
Dislocation, anxiety, and withdrawal.
Patriotism and PTSD.
Where are my brothers; 
Where is the love and care?
How did I get here?

My body’s perimeter is not the same; 
My edges are different. 
There is no life outside
Only the roaches, peeling paint, and bureaucrats
And my smiling, fearful family

Somewhere a six-year old
Puts messages in a bottle
For when his father, the soldier, returns.
And his sister cries out:
“Stop the War; Bring my Daddy home.”




Your micro electro mechanical system
Lets me access
The cross flow separation flow
That unites and divides us.

It helps me ensure
That roll reversals happen
At different angles of attack.
The non-detonable matrix composites 
Of your soul
Sustain my impinging stream vortex engine
Leading me straight to 
The electrothermal chemical propulsion
That powers your variable thrust rocket motor.

I tumble about in the droplet models
Of your hypergolic chemical thermochemistry,
Positioning your time data stream to ensure
Full velocity management.

As we close on each other, 
Our complex target interaction
Demands an advanced lethality program to ensure
The momentum is transferred
Between us.

Our love is technological and 
Every moment is grist for discernment.



As a boy
At the edge 
Of the curb

Small town patriotism
Passing in review
First the flags,
Standards tucked
In a manly pouch.

The youth battalion
Erect and shining,
Gay innocence
Dreaming of wars to come
Evil giants to slay 
And maidens to rescue.

Those who had just returned,
Battle sheen
Still gleaming
From their chests.

The band blared their hope
And sang their epitaph.

Then the men 
Who had gone before,
In sad eyes,
Hoping for memories
That would bring
Quiet sleep.

The stallions,
Some proud,
Some with drooping heads.

And, at last,
Once the music died
And hope and experience
Had gone before me
The saddest joy of all,
The streetsweepers,
Always needed,
Always present,
Keeping the boulevard clean
For the next parade.


Gordon Adams is a former national security policy official, retired college professor, writer, and actor, living in Brunswick, Maine.