Frances Browner; Minefield in Korea 1953

Minefield in Korea, 1953

We came upon boots and bones

Heels and toes together

As if at attention.

As if this Unknown Soldier,

Grown jaded of War,

Had wanted to sleep it off.


While Sergeant went for help,

I lit a Pall Mall and reached

For a small bone, a finger

Perhaps that resisted.

Pried it from frozen ground,

Cleaned it with my bayonet.


As I cleared more mud away,

I discovered bits of rotting fabric

Rusted with blood,

An arm band, tattered and dirty

Bearing the Medic’s Red Cross

One of our own was he.


A second trove turned out to be

His wallet with Army ID,

A driver’s licence from Minnesota,

Pictures of people in front of a

Sturdy, red-bricked house

And a letter I did not read.


How long would it be before

They learnt that their son

Was no longer MIA, but KIA?

Their hope hopeless, prayers wasted?

I nodded at my skeleton

For, he was mine then.


Imagined him heeding screams for help

Stumbling and crashing down the hill

With no thought for mines.

Did he die instantly, or linger fatally

Wounded, calling Medic, Medic,

To himself?


I gazed over the valley

At the hills all covered

In an icy white-blue frost

Nothing stirring

A Christmas scene

In this killing field.



Why don’t we?

Wade across the valley to meet in the rising mist.

Share cigarettes, swap souvenirs, admire family

Photographs. Find a common language.


Why don’t we?

Walk away together, wherever our hearts take us

So that when the call to arms sounds on the battlefield,

There’s no one there to hear.



Frances Browner was born in Cork; grew up in Dublin; spent twenty years in America, and now resides in Wicklow. Her short fiction & memoir pieces have appeared in magazines and short story anthologies, been short-listed for competitions and broadcast on radio. Poems have been published in the Examiner, the Ogham Stone, Poems on the Edge, the Limerick Poetry Trail and Skylight 47.


  1. This is a very vividly striking poem, beautifully presented and with a very philosophical conclusion. Congratulations Frances !


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