Social Justice Poetry

anti-war poems

At the Wall | A Social Justice Poem by Roy Pullam

The wall stands somber
On that windy morning
Gales blowing rain
Into my face
I look at the names
Finding a school chum
A poor boy
His fate sealed
By lack of opportunity
Not unlike
Other 1A card carriers
Unable to afford college
To find a doctor
Who would shield them
From the draft
He believed
Willing to wear
The green
To fight in a land
Beyond his knowledge
One day in America
Experiencing the good life
The next
Landing in a strange world
A land of constant
Uncertainty
Four months
Of wading paddies
Four months of ambushes
Intense firefights
Then the pajama-clad phantoms
Disappeared
A land mine
In a clearing
A fatal step
And his life ended
Not the homecoming
We wished for him
But we gathered
Just the same
To hear the minister
Searching for an answer
Then sharing memories
Good times
With the boy
We knew
I took the paper
Placing it
Against the wall
Dragging the pencil
Across the paper
His name rising
On the page
Bold letters
I have read
Over and over
Remembering each time
The futility of Vietnam

Grass Grows on Grease | A Social Justice Poem by G. Louis Heath

In these fields in the shadow of a butte,
Tufts of grass march in the gleaming mud.

You can lose a shoe in the slippery muck.
Be forewarned, tourist. If you lose one,

Abandon it. Freeing leather from the tight
And desperate embrace of greasy soil will

Ruin your trip abroad. Feet slew and slip
Across these fields of muck guarded by a

Sparse army of grass. The grass corps are
Survivors of the flower-strewn corpse-pyre.

Verdant blades march across the leaking,
Slippery hummocks to grow on the grease.

The Selective Service System | A Social Justice Poem by R U Outavit

The Selective Service System
is a rather curious invention
of noble, but dubious intention.
It is designed, don’t you see,
to protect the citizenry (you and me),
and to safeguard our country’s liberty.
But, I am resigned to wonder, quite naturally,
how sound is the national policy
of depending on anyone who, involuntarily,
is expected to fight and die courageously
for principles of freedom and democracy
which he was forced to surrender unwillingly!
Now, who can understand that,
or agree with the wisdom of a draft –
when people become just numbers in a hat?

Feeding the Grinder | A Social Justice Poem by Roy Pullam

The Greyhound bus stopped
At the Webster County courthouse
A group of boys
Men by selective service designation
Came forward
From family cars
Some mothers
Hugging their sons
Others weeping
The shadow of Vietnam
Hung over the morning
Thoughts of apple-cheeked boys
Fodder in an endless war
Was reaching
The rural homes
Fathers who had known war
Mothers numbed by network news
Not ready to send sons
To a faraway war
The bus was crowded
We stood in the aisle
Hoping that stops
Would discharge passengers
Along the winding Highway 60
Small towns and short stops
Waited all the way
Leaving hours before Louisville
Eddie still drunk
From the night before
Hollered from the back
Of the bus
“Next stop Vietnam”
We cringed in our seats
The news cast
Bringing the horror
To our door
Our desire
Just wanting to live
To have our lives
In peace
He did not get
The laugh
He was looking for
We snailed our way
Both anxious
But in no hurry
The bus slid
Into Ft. Knox
One of a number
Discharging its human cargo
Two days for an hour physical
Some rejected
Others dejected
The culling process
Less defined
As the war amped up
The return trip quiet
For some
The freedom soon gone
As they would merge
Into the green morass
I too lived
With the verdict
My heart’s weakness
Keeping me home
While my brother fought
I gave them a final look
Men I would not see again
Some returning
Much older
Some not returning at all
It is the boys
Who fight
Old men’s wars
Paying a price
No one
Should ever pay
My life would be
On the sideline
My guilt mainstream
Watching from safety
As others
Marched off to war

Memory and Meaning | A Social Justice Poem by G. Louis Heath

Who wants to be remembered? Many do, of course.
We cut slabs of granite, erect megaliths over their

Last remains to beckon the living to memory. Or
They endow a scholarship in their name, hoping the

Youngster will carry forth their glory. Remember
Me is a mantra of mankind. No one seeks to live

For naught. The millions who died in war, civilians
And soldiers, many remains unfound, suffered the

Ultimate sacrifice. They all want a niche in memory.
Yet, without identifiable remains, where do we erect

A stone and who will pay for an eponymous scholarship
Or maybe a mnemonic building on a campus? Who will

Make the sacrifice in even small measure to remember
And hallow their demise? Perhaps they need not so much

Memory as meaning. We can realize that for them in a
Massive campaign for peace. We owe their memory that.

Dangerous Place | A Social Justice Poem by Guy Farmer

Looking through the window
He sees only war, perceiving
Everything as a battle,
As something to be won,
An adversary to be exterminated.

“When something bad is
Lurking around every corner,
Ready to attack you,
You have to hit first,”
He mutters automatically.

The world viewed as a dangerous place,
Where everyone is an enemy
Who must be engaged with violence,
Internal turmoil played out in public,
Only one direction to go in.