A traffic jam at Fifth and Broadway after the news of Germany's surrender ended World War I. (Los Angeles Times)

Creative Writing

A WW1 poem: I proved my might and yet I cried

<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/sethi1rhea/" target="_self">Rhea Sethi</a>

Rhea Sethi

June 15, 2022
My lips are cracked, my throat feels dry

Been waiting for this all my life

Just enlisted, future’s bright

Pershing tells us, “Onwards, Doughboys!

We’ll fight the Fritzes, prove our might

A torch of victory to our Allied”


My lips are cracked, my throat feels dry

My boots are laced, my head’s held high 

Springfields load, cannons light

The dead, like dolls, tossed aside

Limbs splayed, eyes wide, they almost look alive

I run, I run, I run, but I 

Cannot escape their vacant eyes


Our men, they shout, they scream, they writhe. 

They should have gone home to their wives.

They could have gone home, lived their lives. 

They could have, should have, but they died.

Their lips are cracked, they’re tossed aside.


He shoots, he grins, he aims, they die

I feel unease, I don’t know why

After all, we’re both Allied   

I can’t escape his gleeful eyes

His lips aren’t cracked, his throat’s not dry


Across the battlefield, we lock eyes

Our lips are cracked, our throats are dry

He’s just eighteen, as old as I

Could we be friends if he was Allied?

I shoot, he dies, I live, I cry

I proved my might, I survived, sometimes I wish I’d died


Mom tends to me, for months I lie

In bed, awake, afraid all night

My hands, they tremble, don’t know why

Can’t scream, can’t speak, can barely cry

My lips are cracked, my throat feels dry

They can’t escape my vacant eyes.