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An After-War Poem

by Lt. Col. William Adler, U.S. Army


Freshly scrubbed, fed and cleansed of your war—
for now.
But you suspect,
that the stink won’t go away.
The odors will betray,
(you) like the lies of privileged men.
“Ambition. Sacrifice. Honor.”
“Now”, you think,
“things all smell the same.”
A change in the breeze
brings on
burning rubber and oil.
The memories of sweat, urine, and shit.
Those smells of people and rot
The revolting dead-air breath
of coffee, cigarettes,
and vomit.
All compounded with
animal fear.
This is nature’s trick—
to mock you for believing the lies.




Lt. Col. William Adler, U. S. Army, is a military professor at the Naval War College in the College of Leadership and Ethics. He is a career infantry officer with service in mechanized and Stryker infantry formations. He has deployed to Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He served as a combat advisor on the ground in Iraq in 2004 for the 7th Iraqi Army Infantry Battalion and again in Afghanistan in 2010–2011 with the 1st Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment as a battalion executive officer.

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September-October 2021