Marianne Moore

We Call Them the Brave

  who likely were reluctant to be brave.
  Sitting by a slow fire on a waste
  of snow, I would last about an hour.
  Better not euphemize the grave.

  In this fashionable town, endearments are the mode
  though generals are appraised - not praised - 
  and one is not forced to walk about
  where a muddy slough serves as a road.

  "What are these shadows barely
  visible, which radar fails to scan?"
  ships "keeping distance on the gentle swell."
  And "what is a free world ready

  to do, for what it values most?"
  bestow little discs the bereaved may touch?
  forget it even when dead - 
  that congressionally honored ghost

  mourned by a friend whose shoulder sags - 
  weeping on the shoulder of another
  for another; with another sitting near,
  filling out casualty tags.

  What of it? We call them the brave
  perhaps? Yes; what if the time should come
  when no one will fight for anything
  and there's nothing of worth to save.