POETRY FORMAT, 28 May 2018

Anthony J. Marsella, Ph.D. – TRANSCEND Media Service

What more can be said of war
That has not already been said,
That has not already been written,
That has not already been sung in song,
Recited in verse, shared in epic tales?

What more can be said of war
That has not already been committed to screen,
In iconic movies with legendary actors
Fighting and dying with glory amidst waving flags;
Or in heralded documentaries carefully
Edited with photos, letters, and poignant
Words of lament, spoken amid haunting tunes?

What more can be said of war
That has not already been in sculpted in marble,
Painted on canvases,
Photographed in black and white,
And vivid color,
Revealing: blood is red, bone is white,
Death is endless.

What more can be said of war
That has not already been inscribed in minds and bodies
Of soldiers who survived,
Civilians who endured,
Prisoners captive to trauma,
Scars visible and invisible?

What more can be said of war
That has not already been carved
On ordered granite gravestones
In national cemeteries, honoring sacrifice,
Death veiled in shade and sunlight?

What more can be said of war
That has not already been said

About heroes and villains,
Soldiers and generals,
Warriors and misfits,
Freedom fighters and terrorists,
Victims and collateral damage,
Apologies and reparations?

What more can be said of war
That has not already been said about
Glorious and evil causes,
Lusts for power and control,
Access to wealth and resources,
Messianic responsibilities, moral duties,
Domination . . . ascendancy . . . revenge?

What more can be said of war
That has not already been eulogized
On fields of battle,
Where lives were lost, minds seared,
Historians’ crafts polished
With the biased narratives of victors:
Waterloo, Hue, Fallujah?
There is no winner in war!

And why, if so much has been
Spoken, written, and engraved,
Why do the lessons of war,
Continue to be ignored, denied, distorted?
And now . . .  Syria.


This poem was published in TRANSCEND Media Service on September 2, 2013. https://www.transcend.org/tms/2013/09/war/

The poem is also published in A. J. Marsella (2016). Poems across Time and Place: A Journey of Heart and Mind.  Pp. 63-64. Alpharetta, GA: Muntain Arbor Press.  ISBN: 976-1-631183-040-2

Comment:  I wrote this poem in the course of two days as I witnessed the tragedy of death and suffering in Syria, bewildered again and again, by the endless uses of so many death technologies. I was dismayed a score of nations were pursuing selfish interests amidst ethnic, tribal, and religion cleansing and genocide. We are living with endless war.

Nothing more can be said about war. Violence begets violence, war begets war! No cries of noble responsibilities to protect and defend from either side are sufficient or warranted. They are merely part of tactics, strategies, and policies sustaining war. Lies! Who benefits from war?

In 1954, at the age of 14, I was selected as one of two finalists in a school poetry recital contest. I recited the following poem by an unknown author, likely written in the WW II days:

Dead in battle,
Dead on the field,
More than his life can a soldier yield?

Dead for his country,
Murmured the drums,
Slowly the sad procession comes.

The heart must ache,
But the heart must swell with pride  
For the soldier who fought so well.

His blood has burnished his saber bright;
To his memory honor,
To him “Good night!”

I lost the contest, but the words were seared in my mind; they have remained as reminders of the many victims of war.


Anthony J. Marsella, Ph.D., a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, is a past president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, Emeritus Professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii’s Manoa Campus in Honolulu, Hawaii, and past director of the World Health Organization Psychiatric Research Center in Honolulu.  He is known internationally as a pioneer figure in the study of culture and psychopathology who challenged the ethnocentrism and racial biases of many assumptions, theories, and practices in psychology and psychiatry. In more recent years, he has been writing and lecturing on peace and social justice. He has published 21 books and more than 300 articles, tech reports, and popular commentaries. His TMS articles may be accessed HERE and he can be reached at marsella@hawaii.edu.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 28 May 2018.

Anticopyright: Editorials and articles originated on TMS may be freely reprinted, disseminated, translated and used as background material, provided an acknowledgement and link to the source, TMS: War, is included. Thank you.

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2 Responses to “War”

  1. Gary Corseri says:

    Thank you, Anthony J. Marsella–for this poem, and for all the fine work you have done in support of clear thinking across the realms of psychology and in support of social justice and peace.

    I can’t think of a better way to frame your poem: It seems to sound a negative, almost hopeless note: What more can be said or done? But, the very recitation of what has been said and done to end the scourge of war inspires with the courage and determination of those brave men and women who have dedicated their lives to highlighting the insanities–and transcending to a higher vision of humanity.

    We find ourselves in a millennial struggle, wandering through dark and vicious passages. Thank you for the light you have given–here and throughout your life.

  2. This is a compelling question at the end of the poem:

    “Why do the lessons of war,
    Continue to be ignored, denied, distorted?

    Fortunately the question has an answer—a system that prioritizes and enforces “law, not war.”

    Here it is in 12 sections.