This poem is at the start of the book ‘Forever Free’ – the second part of the trilogy ‘Peace and War’ by Joe Haldeman. ‘Forever Free’ was first published in 1999. The first part of the trilogy, The Forever War, was first published in 1974.
Men stop war to make gods
sometimes. Peace gods, who would make
Earth a heaven. A place for men to
think and love and play. No war
to cloud their minds and hearts. Stop,
somehow, men from being men.
Gods make war to stop men
from becoming gods.
Without the beat of drums to stop
our ears, what heaven we could make
of Earth! The anchor that is war
left behind? Somehow free to
stop war? Gods make men to
be somewhat like them. So men
express their godliness in war.
To take life: this is what gods
do. Not the womanly urge to make
life. Nor the simple sense to stop.
War-men make gods. To stop
those gods from raging, we have to
find the heart and head to make
new gods, who don’t take men
in human sacrifice. New gods,
who find disgust in war.
Gods stop, to make men war
for their amusement. We can stop
their fun. We can make new gods
in human guise. No need to
call to heaven. Just take plain men
and show to them the heaven they could make!
To stop God’s wars! Men make
their own destiny. We don’t need war
to prove to anyone that we are men.
But even that is not enough. To stop
war, we have to become more. To
stop war, we have to become gods.
To stop war, make men gods.