1000 Plastic Toy Soldiers

Every now and then, mostly for the reason she could,
my mother had been handing me German or American
toy soldiers, gray Germans and forest-green Americans.
And I’d tear into the bright packaging, happy to be loved.
When I gave the collection of a thousand plastic army men
to my cousins Bob and Jim Ramsdail it was because I’d read
in a book from the Bookmobile that the defeat of the Germans
during World War Two wasn’t as much an American triumph
as it was a clear indication of the will of the Russian people.
I’d picked up the book because
Big Red by Jim Kjelgaard
was on hold. The news about the Russians nearly cancelled
a fondness for setting up and knocking over infantrymen.
In another of the books, it was 1917. Second Lieutenant
F. Scott Fitzgerald was headed to war, adjusting himself

to his full five-foot-eight-inches as he stepped forward.
Overhead, the heavens opened as if God was a sucker
for the dramatic. It was raining. On the gangplank.
On a billboard-sized Stars & Stripes that rippled.
Then, a dockside slapstick as if a pair of spigots
marked
W and R (for wind and rain) had opened.
In the biography, the sides of a transport glowed
as the big boat cast grey Vs of shadow on the men.
One or two counted cadence, smiled and waved.
What Fitzgerald did, the book didn’t say exactly.
The book said an armistice had been declared.
And my hero marched back down. One more
figurine-warrior whose life and death must,
after, be a redefinition of the word
victory.





About the Author:
Roy Bentley’s work has been recognized with fellowships from the NEA, the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs, and the Ohio Arts Council. Poems have appeared in The Southern Review, Shenandoah, Pleiades, Blackbird, North American Review, Prairie Schooner, American Literary Review and elsewhere. He has published four books of poetry: Boy in a Boat (University of Alabama, 1986), Any One Man (Bottom Dog Books, 1992), The Trouble with a Short Horse in Montana (White Pine Press, 2006), and Starlight Taxi (Lynx House Press, 2013).