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History Lesson, 1959

War is very humbling
my history teacher said,
you are one of the quick
or if not, one of the dead.

He spoke with the authority
that his many scars gave,
and he spoke to us quietly
like a voice from the grave.
Many things that I did
I did just to survive;
and I may not be proud
but I am still alive.
Many things you do
in panic at the time
in the cold light of peace
can become a bloody crime.
And in the light of victory
there comes a judgement day,
and the victors set the price
that the vanquished must pay.
What is a war criminal?
One of the losing side.
The defeated slink along.
Victors swagger in pride

He was scarred and he was battered
but he carried himself with pride
and he spoke with quiet authority
that comes from a peace inside.

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