The War in the Air

By: Howard Nemerov

For a saving grace, we didn’t see our dead,
Who rarely bothered coming home to die
But simply stayed away out there
In the clean war, the war in the air.
Seldom the ghosts come back bearing their tales
Of hitting the earth, the incompressible sea,
But stayed up there in the relative wind,
Shades fading in the mind,
Who had no graves but only epitaphs
Where never so many spoke for never so few:
Per ardua, said the partisans of Mars,
Per aspera, to the stars.
That was the good war, the war we won
As if there was no death, for goodness’s sake.
With the help of the losers we left out there
In the air, in the empty air.
To me this poem sounds very deep, but I really love the meaning behind it.
We know for a fact that war can’t really be avoided, but my question is why wars even happen in the first place. In this poem Nemerov is trying to tell why wars happen and what’s the benefit of a war.
As mentioned in line 2 “who rarely bothered coming home to die”, the soldier never even came home to die. Nemerov feels bad for the soldiers who died and those who won a battle but lost a war. In line 1 “we didn’t see our dead” basically tells how they can’t really see the soldiers who died on the battlefield. There are people who died on the battlefield and who on air.  I think soldiers who died in the air basically refers to their struggles.
In all the stanzas Nemerov talks about something that is unlimited or something you can’t really imagine like the air, stars, wind. I feel like we who have never seen a war can never really imagine what it is like. We have no idea what all the soldiers go through in a war. The soldiers who did survive didn’t get to see the dead soldiers or the bombing. The author also talks about “clean war” and “the good war” maybe he doesn’t like being violent.
This poem uses symbolism like using stars, air to describe how war is actually unimaginable. Also uses, ground and air to describe the deaths.
I’m actually astonished to see how soldiers risk their lives for war even though they don’t really get anything out of it, they fight for their country.


Nationalism can be both good and bad, it depends on how the leaders lead the country. Good because nationalism in a country can unite the citizens, but it becomes bad when there’s violence.

I think nationalism as pride and unity but seeing how it can cause wars kind of makes me think as there’s no use of pride or unity if everything becomes a mess. Hitler makes me want to think nationalism is bad, he killed a million Jews for what? Not only Hitler, but there are countries who are biased towards other races or nationalities.

Even though countries are working together to show strong unity, they do somewhere discriminate. Some countries discriminate to the level of violence –> war. People just love their own country so much that they don’t really seem to care about any other countries. For example, there are several countries who look at a Muslim and think they are terrorists. You can’t really generalize the whole nation based on one group or the past.

I think nationalism is an important element for a nation and it is good as long as it doesn’t exceed the limit. By exceeding the limit I mean as long as no other group/nation is being hurt by your actions or words.


Religious fundamentalism can be very dangerous sometimes. I wouldn’t say religious fundamentalism is wrong, but it’s just that you can’t rule over other people’s life. I’m saying it’s not wrong to believe in Islam, Christianity, Jainism, Buddhism etc. its their action and behavior that concerns people.

I believe that we all should have the freedom to believe in what we want to believe in and not be forced to follow a religion. There’s no point forcing someone to believe in a religion because they won’t be themselves and would just follow the rituals for formality. We all have our own choice and no one else chooses for us.

We can’t really question what the fundamentalists believe in , but we can try and stop their actions (violence). I feel like violence shouldn’t be tolerated and no one has the right to harm a person just because you aren’t following what they want you to follow. I think everyone should stand for themselves and not be forced.