The words above are from one of the verses to America, the Beautiful: O beautiful for heroes proved / in liberating strife, / who more than self their country loved, / and mercy more than life! The song is an anthem of sorts in the United States; some think it should be the national anthem. However that may be, the words apply to heroes everywhere, for heroism often is manifested in ordinary persons who are tested (proved) in some sort of extreme situation. Write a poem about a hero, or heroism. The hero may be real, legendary, or imaginary. It may be a person, or not. Or, perhaps, you might want to write about heroism in an abstract way.


Interesting to note
A true hero’s response is
“just doing my job.”

© copyright 2013, Marie Elena Good



In World War Two, in Hungary,
he moved amongst the quick and dead,
seeking a few whom he could free.

Why did he work in that vale of dread?
His answer was pure simplicity:
to spare some lives, or, as he said,

his mission was “to save the Jewish nation.”

© copyright 2013, William Preston



My country, oh storied land,
’tis of thee my heart beats strong.
Sweet land of liberty, how I long to wave your banner for
Of thee I sing; the song of freedom’s fight.
Land where my father died, a patriot and sentry
Land of the pilgrims’ pride, a man of faith and gentry,
From ev’ry mountainside I will shout my father’s name
Let freedom ring! It’s peal loud and long!

© copyright 2013, Walter J. Wojtanik

221 thoughts on “PROMPT #128 – HEROES PROVED

  1. “True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.” – Arthur Ashe

    Mom: The Unsung Hero

    She puts
    A little love
    In every task or plan
    She undertakes, ensuring her
    And happiness,
    Putting their many needs
    Above her own, serving with all
    Her heart.

    © Copyright Erin Kay Hope – 2013

  2. I wrote this poem about the quiet heroism of people with chronic mental illnesses, many of whom have to face their problems every day with little understanding or support.


    There are
    57 million silent stories out there – no, that’s
    57 million stories lip-synching in a corner so that
    57 milion heroes do not go unheard, the same
    57 million heroes who cannot tread softly enough, the same
    57 million heroes lying on pavements and in halfway homes, with
    57 million voices and visions, terrors and elations and perhaps
    57 million families left to handle their heroism however they can.

    57 million nameless stories –
    listen and tell me how loudly
    a number can count.

    © Andra-Teodora Negroiu, 2013

  3. At the Gate to the Land of Engraved Stones

    blinked at
    the drizzle.
    Once upon a time, the skies rained something
    other than droplets. She whispered words of
    then walked


  4. Marie Elena – in a few short words, you summed it all up precisely. That is indeed what heroes are all about.

    William – this gave me chills. Literally (and yes, I am using the word ‘correctly’ here.) I am well-acquainted with Wallenberg’s story, as well as the horrors from that despicable time. Thank you.

    Walt – the song honoring your father is a song well-sung.

    • I’d like to join in what RJ says, Marie and Walt. Marie, I thought your senryu was superb, not only for the simple thought expressed so well, but also for the fitting use of the form. Walt, your use of a song to launch another song is something I’ve not seen before, at least not this way. I loved reading and “hearing” it/.

    • Marie Elena, as always, I love your short and to-the-point pieces. The way you can condense the essence of a prompt in a well-crafted phrase is amazing.

      William – thank you for reminding me of one man’s effort to stay poised in the midst of chaos and to honor the spirit of humanity in the face of xenophobia and decadence.

      Walt – this is such a beautiful integration of the story of your father within the anthem of his adopted country.


    He died on the cross
    To save all saints and sinners
    There’s no greater love

    Mama is so brave
    She accepts her agonies
    Without complaining

    Papa gave his word
    Even when the price was steep
    He would not break it

    Blue or gray or black
    Skies bring joy to my Sharon
    All things are God’s gifts

    Francis loved the beasts
    He understood their language
    And mended their hurts

    The unrequited
    Who will dare to love again
    Give all of us hope

    Caesar Vallejo
    Rather than silence your poems
    You offered final breath

    The man from Krypton
    Hero to generations
    Teach me how to fly

    In flowered graveyards
    Brave soldiers rest weary bones
    We owe them our lives



    Beneath this green expanse
    the fallen, once tall with promise,
    now sleep in death’s repose.
    Their dreams no longer frighten them.
    No bombs nor shrapnel fly
    to wound their flesh and crush the hope
    this war they will survive.
    I am the blades of summer grass,
    the comforter to warm
    their peaceful sleep. Under this ground
    made sacred by their sacrifice,
    these soldiers sleep, their heads
    beneath the stone marker
    inscribed with dates of birth and death.
    Eyes that had seen too much,
    windows of a soul gone home at last,
    sealed shut tight forever.
    Heroes everyone, they rest now.
    I cover them with summer green.



    If rivers could harbor
    a people’s love of freedom,
    bear it proudly in their depths,
    carry heroes on the shoulders
    of their sparkling blue waters,

    the Dniester and the Prut
    would praise Moldovans:
    these sons and daughters
    of ancient Thrace,
    brave Dacians and Volokhs.

    If rivers could speak
    of courage, every heart
    would know the songs
    of Chisinau, the capital
    and soul of Moldova,

    burned by Turks and Tartars,
    rising again like a phoenix
    from the ashes of defeat.

    If rivers could proclaim
    to the world the clarion sound
    of freedom, love of liberty,
    respect for all nations,

    the Dniester and the Prut
    would rise up in defense
    of all Moldova,
    and the birds of Codru woods,
    nesting in endless orchards,
    would trill their sweet songs


  8. We can’t all be heroes, because somebody has to sit on the curb and applaud when they go by.” — Will Rogers


    I don’t need to race into a burning building
    to know what it feels like to be a hero
    or dive into the icy waters of Lake Pontchartrain
    to rescue a fisherman a trophy blue fish pulled in

    Heroes abound! They line the streets of my humdrum life
    They risk skin and bones, spill blood to save others
    modestly proclaiming their daring feats of bravery
    unworthy of praise, something anyone would do

    These heroes who render all our lives worth living
    These giants with matching hearts and souls whose fear
    cannot be seen, a microscopic tracing outweighed
    by courage, a hands-on exemplary compassion

    I do not need to imitate in order to comprehend
    why these heroes lay their lives on the line
    Enough to say they take God’s words
    and make them real: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

    We would all do best to live our lives heroically
    Choose to do good to others, be heroes of the poor,
    defenders of the dreams of children, humble in God’s eyes
    and, yes, applaud from the sidelines when those heroes go by.


    • For me, this is another “wow” piece. Marie has it right, above” this topic suits you, and your poems, this one included, are (to use a word I think is often abused, but it fits here) awesome.

    • Sal, this topic definitely suits you. The quote at the beginning reminds me of a Romanian proverb which implies that there is a place in society for everyone – priests and shoemakers, those who save and those who are to be saved.

  9. Thank you for the opportunity to post in honor of heroes. Here’s one from the past:

    I Lay Waiting

    Row after row they all look the same
    Fading white marble with name after name
    Grass growing slowly, groomed by the week
    Occasional strangers; other names that they seek
    Lying in wait, no one seeks my stone
    No tears shed for me as I lay alone

    Alone with thousands of souls just like me
    Thousands who fell for the land of the free
    A land that I love, and gave all to defend
    And now I lay waiting for a loved one or friend
    Loved ones or friends that so rarely stop by
    Forgotten I lay here not understanding why

    I sacrificed it all to keep freedom alive
    My spirit cries out with a plea to survive
    At least in the memories of those left behind
    While I lay here waiting, entombed, confined
    Unable to do much more than reminisce
    About family and friends and everything that I miss

    My memory is sharp; my whole life I recall
    From the day I was born ‘til the day I gave all
    Thoughts run willy-nilly always through my head
    My body is wasting, though my mind is not dead
    But now I am saddened as I lay here alone
    Waiting for anyone to stop at my stone

    Earl Parsons
    Copyright © Earl Parsons 2012

    • Earl… hauntingly poignant. I have chills and tears. Every once in a while, I would visit a cemetery and spend time at the markers that no one stopped by to visit.

      • Meena, that is one of the sweetest, kindest acts I’ve ever known. Bless your heart.

        And Earl, this poem speaks not only to those heroes of whom you write, but also it directly speaks to the honor and decency of the gentleman who penned it.

      • Earl, your poem is truly heartbreaking – sadly, a life well-lived does not guarantee that people will remember you after you are gone.

        Meena, I can truly relate. Cemeteries in Romania are poorly tended to and are usually reduced to courtyards of mud and overgrown weeds when it rains. I have always been afraid to wander far from the “official” path when visiting a cemetery, but have always wondered what it would be like to be buried away in a corner and forgotten underneath piles of weeds. People like you reassure me that no one is ever truly forgotten. Such a touching, impressive action. >:D<

    • Thank you all so much. This poem was inspired by the new story about mixing up headstones at Arlington. The report brought instant sadness for all that lay there, especially those that are always alone and completely forgotten.

    • Earl,
      suddenly moved. I love your first person hero, his account of sadness.
      Your careful rhythm mirrors the rows upon rows upon rows…the still stones reflect the hard, forced waiting. Very moving.

  10. And for Veteran’s Day:

    The Veteran

    Often left out
    Often overlooked
    Sometimes forgotten
    Sometimes reviled
    Many times cheated
    Often put down
    Sometimes a nuisance
    Swept off to the side

    Always prepared
    No matter the risk
    Standing for freedom
    Standing for truth
    Ready to sacrifice
    For the common good
    For you and me
    An hero unsung

    Always defending
    Upholding your rights
    On the alert
    For the enemy’s approach
    Ready for action
    Ready to defend
    Ready for battle
    Ready to die

    The veteran waits
    For the country to call
    Duty and honor
    And freedom at stake
    Protecting us all
    With no thought of self
    The veteran acts
    For God, country and you

  11. “and sometimes, understanding”

    The Hell
    of alcoholism
    is not just
    that it brings to the front
    the worst of human nature
    but that it plants a mask
    on the best
    so that it is many years
    before you can see the heroic effort
    to love
    under the glass
    of shatter beer bottles.

  12. Four Letter Words

    For every
    there is a cry for
    Even if audible
    on the inside.

    Ellen Knight 11.10.13
    write a “hero” poem for PB

  13. Finally Home
    By: Meena Rose

    Most of me made it;
    My legs were not so lucky
    And neither was my right eye –
    Still I am returning home.

    I take in a deep ragged breath;
    What will they think of their
    Golden son reduced to being a
    Ghoulish sight.

    As I wheel myself out, my
    Breath catches as Mom
    Lets out a whimper fighting
    Hard not to let her face

    Crumble and Dad standing so
    Still, a lone tear slides
    Down his cheek as he wraps
    His arms around Mom lending

    Her his strength. Chelsea,
    She took off in tears;
    I wonder if she’ll ever come
    Back. I am not sure I would

    If it were me. I choke down
    My sob and watch them; who else
    Will turn their back on me?
    The dreariness is broken

    As Charlie explodes on the
    Scene screaming “Welcome Home!”
    As he leaped into my lap. I
    Held on to that little rascal

    Taking in the sight of his
    Sun kissed skin and finger nails
    That had just played in the dirt;
    He looked at me and those bright

    Blue eyes clouded with concern
    “Uncle Scott, is my Papa coming
    Home too?” I ruffled his hair
    And looked away for who was I

    To tell him “No Charlie, your
    Papa fought hard and died a
    Brave brave man while he was
    Busy saving me.”

    Poet’s Note: This poem was written to honor my best friend. His initial welcome home had none of the romanticism he had imagined on those nights when he was alone. He died shortly after his return due to additional complications from internal organ damage.

  14. The Red Poppy
    By: Meena Rose

    I wonder if anyone will notice;
    I wonder if anyone will care
    That I no longer festoon myself
    With a red poppy lapel pin.

    My remembrances and my goodbyes;
    London burning and the endless cries;
    The Blitz – the ever present fear
    That Judith and our unborn child survived.

    My remembrances and my goodbyes;
    My anger, my dread, my sorrow, my grief;
    All things to be honored privately;
    I am the last of those who remember

    What it was like to be at brink of
    Oblivion and what it was like to
    Look the enemy in the eye and
    Offer up a prayer for their mothers

    As I snuffed the light out of their sons
    Never once wavering till it was all done;
    With each kill, I lost a piece of my heart;
    With each kill, I prayed less and less;

    With each kill, I lost pieces of humanity
    Becoming a man-beast who was bone weary
    Man wanting to go home and wondering if
    There was still a home to return to.

    And then, just like it started, it ended;
    We, as a world, remembered lessons
    That I now feel are long forgotten;
    Our nations forever at the ready to

    Descend into war’s hellish embrace;
    Our remembrance, mere lip service;
    Can we turn this holiday sideways,
    Recognize the service and teach peace?

    • For me, this touches the whole point of remembering veterans, for most of those I’ve known, from soldiers of WWII to Vietnam, have said that nobody hates war so much as one who’s seen it.

    • Meena, I love the end of this poem, the plea to turn war on its head and celebrate peace instead of senseless bloodshed. Thank you for this strong piece – it reminds us of what is truly important, of where our values and our humanity should truly lie.


    The headstones stand in solemn rows
    engraved with histories concise,
    where futures came to decompose,
    where freedom paid a humbling price.

    The silence in the air is striking
    yet standing here, one hears the sounds
    of worn out boots patrolling, hiking,
    of rifle shots and mortar rounds.

    The air is thick with smells of battle,
    bullets fired, flowing blood.
    Caving to mortality’s rattle,
    heroes drowned in combat’s flood.

    The headstones stand in solemn lines
    engraved with histories concise.
    A quiet place of sacred shrines
    to those who made the sacrifice.

    © Susan Schoeffield

  16. “Now and Then”
    a hero’s journey

    Once upon lost humble days
    when virtue spoke of valor brave
    And quiet tasks received no praise,

    bold men toiled from birth to grave
    with no thought for accolades,
    from heavenly hosts or worldly knaves,

    Their blood and sweat on display
    for family needs, small and great,
    with skillful hands that gave and gave–

    The hero’s journeys time erased.

  17. Definitions

    When we are rescued,
    we say a hero saved us.
    When we save others,
    we say it just happened,
    right place, right time.
    We don’t want to live
    under the constraints
    of heroism, all those
    expectations, all that
    back patting and ego
    boosting. We cling
    to our anonymity with
    our humility, knowing
    ourselves as cowards
    until the opportunity
    arrives to be bigger
    than ourselves, to use
    the thing we can do well,
    naturally, instinctively.
    Our definitions blur
    from receiver to giver,
    from helper to helped.
    Like the kid who caught
    the baby tossed from
    the window of a burning
    building. He sprinted
    to the spot and pulled
    that howling child into
    his chest like a football.
    When hailed, he said,
    “I ain’t no hero.
    I’m a person
    who can catch.”

    • There’s a “sneaky fast” quality to this, but mainly it’s a thoughtful, wee essay that uses simple language to define something close to undefinable. Or so it seems to be. I think this is wonderful.

    • Oh Jane, how do you do this, ordering your words so well. The short lines underlie the restraint of humility your poem speaks to. The brief phrasing (e.g. ‘right time, right place’ and ‘back patting…ego boosting’) and the quick line pacing hurry us through ordinary life (given it’s truly extraordinary), shoulders shrugging, as that sidewalk hero kid clearly and plainly explains at the simple end.
      Just wonderful.

  18. The Silent

    The front of the marker
    held the veteran’s name;
    the dates of is life,
    Aug. 16, 1939 – Jan. 12, 1960
    the field of conflict, Viet Nam.

    The back of the marker told
    a much sadder story—of the
    family member interred with him.
    It read: INFANT – His Son,
    Jan. 12, 1960 – Jan 13, 1960.

    I could not even begin to
    imagine the world of pain
    that had descended on that
    young widow. The stories she
    would tell their son about why
    his daddy was away for his
    birth—suddenly, erased from
    her tongue.

    The brief burst of joy,
    anticipating the letters
    that would diary their
    son’s progress—the thoughts
    truncated in mid sentence.
    Her baby’s life had begun
    and ended before the news
    of her husband’s death could
    even reach her.

    One would think they already
    had names picked out. This predated
    by decades the era of Skype,
    and the possibility of choosing a
    name together just after
    birth. Had she just been so
    grief-stricken that the baby’s
    name would not appear on the
    grave marker?

    Perhaps that was asking
    too much of a young woman who
    had just lost the gravitational pull
    around which her whole
    universe had revolved.

    The grave stone gave memory
    to the tragedy. She didn’t care
    that her husband had died a hero.
    She didn’t know he had died
    in a war that officially wouldn’t be
    recognized for years. She didn’t
    care about the reminders of tens of
    thousands of sacrifices that covered
    the hills as far as she could see.
    She only cared about one.

    Ellen Knight 11.10.13
    write a “hero” poem for PB

  19. Pingback: Poured for Me | Metaphors and Smiles

  20. Poured for Me
    When I was left
    bereft of words
    breathless of thought,
    then arrived
    in ripple of wind
    across still water,
    a golden leaf
    stirred to sail,
    carrying precious cargo.
    A gift of inspiration
    a dose of hope,
    meant to fill my breast
    just when I thought
    that I was abandoned
    and wordless
    Spirit poured forth
    for me.
    Copyright © Hannah Gosselin 2013

  21. Grand Hero

    She utterly reached for
    That pie in the sky
    She prevailed eating it’s humble slices
    She’s a caption of a picture of ardent love
    Despite our feverish woes
    Witty devices

    She stood much taller than every foe
    With an edge despite her small stature
    Having military grade discipline ingrained daily implemented into action

    Her heart was grand enough to contain us all
    Her slithering arms where just as wide
    That once you entered within her grasp
    You’re trapped a testament to her pride

    She was the strongest woman we ever knew
    Her fingerprints were on us all
    The judge the jury the tried and true
    Can testify that her love rigorously convicted all

    To the remembrance of my dear late grandmother. Love and peace be with you always.

  22. HEROS

    Help wanted –
    Every veteran needs to know their sacrifices were
    Recognized and appreciated by
    Our country and the people they
    Serve. Have you THANKED a veteran today?

    • Not today (Tuesday)…haven’t recognized one yet. But gosh, the way these offerings have painted our heroes, I should go look for one and thank him/her. They are all around, on every side. Heroes among us.

  23. Tears

    A tear for every solider lost
    would surely fill an ocean.
    A tear for every life saved
    would surely build a mountain.

    A tear for every country ravaged
    would surely fill the lakes.
    A tear for every country rebuilt
    would surely build the plains.

    A tear for every battle lost
    would surely fill the rivers.
    A tear for every battle won
    would surely build the hills.

    We lose, we win, we ravage,
    we build, we destroy, we save…
    tears keep falling.

  24. Pingback: Hero’s Highway | echoes from the silence


    Some who passed
    through this tunnel were
    carried. And
    some did the
    carrying. One thing is true:
    They are all heroes.

    2013-11-11 (Veterans Day)
    P. Wanken

    There’s a picture of a tent on my blog to go with this poem — it was constructed as a connector between a helipad and the doors to the ER of a Base Hospital in Iraq. It became known as Hero’s Highway. My friend, Brandon, helped construct the tent. The photo is from him.

  26. My hero
    In sixteen
    Of muscle

    He fails
    Me not

    He keeps
    Me going
    My heart
    It flowing

    Good to
    The last

    The next
    Cup of

    Coffee my Hero

  27. If Only

    Wherever he wen
    were caught, brought
    to justice, victims rescued
    in the nick of time.

    Simple reporter,
    for paper
    which aced big news scoops quickly.
    Also, he could fly.

  28. Late providing my offering, I’m in McD’s from a personal writing retreat at a campsite 40 miles away, where there’s no internet (or phone service) because I couldn’t miss this weeks postings. What fantastic tributes, insights, offerings. Wow. I did manage to pen a moment from my retreat, that happened on Monday. With little else to do, I recorded it too. You can hear it at my Dropbox if you like, at
    [audio src="" /]

    I heard his gravelly voice across the draw,
    the smell of burning wood and coffee
    mixed on morning air.
    The talk between him and two women
    carried over
    through bough-filtered sun
    between my camp and theirs.
    They were on number 31,
    with tent, camper, fire.
    I was alone in 20,
    having built no fire for only one.

    Two small children, grands perhaps,
    they kept tight eyes on,
    the parents I’m sure
    having taken time away
    on this long weekend
    with Veteran’s Day.

    I, with my cold-now coffee,
    observed across the draw
    his stumbling moves, his easing down
    into faded folding chairs, his ambling out of the tent,
    around, about the campsite,
    with caution in his tending of the crackling pit.

    Yesterday he’d fallen.
    He had stumped a stick of firewood,
    or the corner of a cot.
    The older ladies
    scrambled, helped him up.
    “Just my weaker knee,” he’d said.
    “I’m not hurt,” he’d said, “Just old.”

    In deep warm smoky tones,
    he gently kept the grands from going too far,
    from throwing their ball into the fire,
    from forgetting to put ‘yes sir’ in their replies
    to his admonishments.

    As they built a late breakfast,
    his sisters (as I learned they were)
    heard stories about brothers, fathers, mothers, aunts.
    I am sure all heard before,
    but in remembering and retelling,
    he recounted faith, and love, and
    a deep endearment to close held histories.

    They often camped together, I am sure,
    many times, around a fire, on crisp November days.
    In all their talk, their reminiscing,
    I could sense their hope
    was much like mine–
    but stronger.
    Learn`ed hope,
    not thin or new or young,
    but hope brewed long
    on fires of trial,
    simmered on embers of hurt and struggle.

    With each sip, I sensed,
    they first raised the mug to Someone
    camped about they could not see,
    but nonetheless there.
    Not so much a toast, as a prayer
    for a blessing.

    Between sips, of course,
    silent ‘yes sirs’ in their replies.

    I forced myself away
    out of earshot of the stories,
    needing a moment in the bathhouse.

    I cut back thru to number 20,
    returning, across the draw between us,
    nearer, really, to 31.
    I dared a simple wave,
    a tentative smile,
    a quiet risked “hello.”

    The old man,
    watching me, waved back,
    and with that smoky, gentle voice
    he gestured, testified,
    “Just keeping this fire warm.”

    “I see,” I said, “yes, you are.”
    I really meant,
    “You are my hero, sir,
    though I don’t even know you.”

    I wished,
    how I wished I did.

    • “… a quiet risked “hello”… yes, we souls can be so tentative…Gorgeous, 7…!!
      I have enjoyed everyone’s poems… thank you.

    • Commenting on this magnificent piece is almost superfluous. It is utterly superb and captivating; storytelling at its best, in my view.

  29. Pingback: Upon Reflection | echoes from the silence

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