Post 911 warriors—like their parents and grandparents before them—must approach faith, culture, loyalty, and service through eyes seared by war. Jon Nelson’s slim volume of poetry, Reflections of Life, is broken into seemingly diverse sections: American Pride, Love of a Lifetime, Human Nature, A Darker Side, and God’s Beauty. However, the order of these topics is as meaningful as the poetry contained within them. Nelson’s poetic style is simple but his thoughts are intellectual and brave.
In the first section, most of the poems are “in your face” patriotism, the thoughts of a man who has chosen to spend his youthful years in a war zone. Painful transitions from innocence to protector are explored in “As You Get Ready.” Then poems like “Lay My Guns Down” and “Freedom isn’t Free” probe the realities of life in a war zone. By the time I got to “Heart of a Soldier,” I appreciated the layers of meaning in “On my back, I carry this unbearable load, As I walk along this seemingly endless road.”
The second section, Love of a Lifetime, seems all the more joyous for the months and years spent in a desert waiting for something ugly to happen. Lovers often say things like “Your love is what keeps me going” and “Your inspiration always surrounds me” and “You are my rock.” However, coming on the heels of poems like “A Soldier’s Night Before Christmas,” they take on deeper, darker meanings.
In the next two sections, Human Nature and A Darker Side, the poet moves on to deeper reflections. “Leave Your Mark,” sounded so much like my father, a World War II veteran who often pondered the same issues. When Nelson talked about the need to prove yourself “if someone makes you feel worthless,” I swallowed back sad memories of the years my dad was lost inside his own head. And “Insanity” was all too familiar for a child of war.
The final section focuses on spirituality. These poems made me smile. They aren’t truly about religion but more about a reboot, a deliberate way to perceive life. “Forces Stand Against Me” once more reminded me of the challenges veterans face. While they were away, the world changed. While they were away, they changed. This thoughtful little book explores the challenges a combat vet faces trying to find home again.
MWSA Reviewer: Joyce Faulkner