There were people during the war
(the one a diminishing few still refer to
as The War as though there were no other)
who would travel out of the towns or cities
every night to sleep in fields or scattered woods
believing they were less likely to die by way of bombs.
Most drove the five or six miles
they considered prudent and then slept
in their cars as a hedge against random death.
Some even walked both ways night and morning
having no access to motorized transport
but preferring the idea of this safety
rather than waiting with their neighbors
to watch the dark lottery
unfold around or upon them.
Most did this alone and were thought mad
or cowards somehow, a mental weakness
civilian shell shock, but perhaps not.
I run five miles every evening
after dinner and before reading
or watching the television for my entertainment.
I do this with some vague idea
I will stay alive longer by the exercise
preserving myself against our inevitable fate.
Perhaps walking into the fields each night
to sleep beneath a small metal roof
beneath the stars was no different.
More immediate at least
as regards some cause and effect
in the personal battle for self-preservation.
They were pitied, thought mad
and thus this course would have taken
an individualism to undertake.
Especially at a time when social strictures
and petty norms controlled general behavior
even more so than they do now.
Still five miles back
each morning before coffee
would be a price to pay.
I wonder if they made other arrangements
to address short term wants
in the light of long term needs.
Where are the notes
that address these matters,
the details of the doing?
Where is the data describing
life expectancy of this group
in comparison to the rest?
Are there secret sad reunions
heads held high still shaking over
stories of their loved ones and walks not taken?
Life goes on
but not always our own
or those others we value most.