INSIDE WAR by Joel Nelson


photo © 2016, Ken Rodgers


by Joel Nelson

We read stories of Wars
Hist’ries written on pages
And records of battle
Drawn on walls of the cave
Read of Glory and Honor
And Right through the ages
And all those who fell
‘Neath the crest of the knave

The themes are eternal
Of wars on the ocean
Of axes and swords
On the Otterburn Plain
The ninety gun Frigates
The horsemen in motion
The bleeding has stopped
But the stories remain

There are terms of Armistice
And flags of surrender
This war fought for freedom
That war saved a race
Twixt savages cruel
Or soldiers yet tender
The scholars record them
And each has its place

Some go unrecorded
Wars fought self-contained
Conflicts never ending
No respite or truce
For the foe lives within
Lashing out unrestrained
And the warrior wears thin
From the battles’ abuse

The shelling subsides
Then intensity quickens
With most unaware
Of the state of the war
Leaving soldier and loved ones
With Conflict that thickens
Outsiders observing
The scene from afar

There is only so long
Any warrior can battle
‘Til he must succumb
To the enemy inside
So loosening the reins
Stepping down from the saddle
Heaving sigh of relief
He will cease his long ride

His allies left standing
Gather somewhat uncertain
Refraining from judgment
United by love
Acknowledging peacetime
And drawing the curtain
Leaving all in the hands
Of the Maker above

© 2008, Joel Nelson

On this Veterans Day and Remembrance Day, we’re honored to share the words of Texas rancher and horseman Joel Nelson. He served in Vietnam with the 101st Airborne Division. A National Endowment of the Arts Heritage Fellow, Joel Nelson is respected for his writing and his reciting.

You can find Joel Nelson next weekend at the 18th annual Monterey Cowboy Poetry & Music Festival, November 18-20, 2016 in Monterey, California. The event has a great outreach with local schools and libraries, and includes a great a Western art and gear show.

There, Joel Nelson joins a stellar lineup of Dave Stamey, Mike Beck, Don Edwards, Randy Rieman, Peter Rowen, Skip Gorman and the Waddie Pals, Connie Dover with Tom Sauber, Juni Fisher, Janet Bailey, Rich O’Brien, Rex Allen, Jr., The Hanson Family, R.W. Hampton, Bruce Forman & COW BOP, Karen Ross, Jim Ross, Ross Knox, Hot Club of Cowtown, and Whit Smith.

Find more about the Monterey Cowboy Poetry & Music Festival at and on Facebook.

Find more about Joel Nelson at

This photograph, by Idaho filmmaker, writer, teacher, and photograph Ken Rodgers, was taken last month at the San Antonio Veterans Memorial Plaza and Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Ken and Betty Rodgers are the creators of the award-winning film, Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor, about the men of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Marines during the 1968 siege at Khe Sanh in Vietnam, with whom Ken served. Find more about it  on Facebook and at, where there is an engaging blog.

Their latest project, a work in progress, I Married the War, tells the stories of the lives of combat veteran spouses, from WWII through today. Find more about it at and on Facebook.

Find poems and more for Veterans Day at