Afghanistan

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As the long-overdue departure from Afghanistan approaches, here’s something I wrote 16 years ago upon the loss of 2000 American soldiers there:

The ones who cannot stand to weep

are the ones who say that I must keep

my mouth shut when I penetrate their spin

while they bring comfort to the enemy within.

They say a citizen must ignore the bureaucratic fuel of war

the official juggernaut of Right exercised under cover of night

twisted to their purpose

out of sight.

I have to wonder how they hide as the storm of conflict roils inside

that must be silenced lest the voices bare

their fantasies of greed and fear so empty of the urge to free

themselves for any nobler purpose than extinction.

 

I am not your enemy I say I am your mirror with this scarred half of me

the missing leg below my knee the plates inside my skull

I’m not quite here and yet aware with halting gait and forever stare

searching for my lost parts anywhere I can find them.

I look into a stranger’s eyes and ask if I am known.

He asks if I am somehow lost and then my cover’s blown.

I try to tell him of the cost that makes me but a rumor now

of the man that has been lost.

 

The past will not leave me be and the future can’t come too soon.

The doctors say that I’m all right that I can live a normal life

but they can’t see what I have seen and cannot see me now.

 

Rockets blast my dreams each night and a python tightens

round my chest robbing me of sober rest.

A life digested. Sweet sleep if I can get some.

 

I’m sorry to disturb you from your reverie but a soldier’s bleeding in the streets.

He is my brother or your son or a sister loved by everyone.

They are my nation fallen.

 

Each day’s supply of coffins flown in silence to some distant home

When you close your eyes at night you never see the fading light 

of lives undone. They come from Idaho or Montana from Texas and Looze-iana

their dreams pumped with your sad fiction

the vice of economic conscription.

How many more will have to fly before the chaff of falsehood

separates from the truth that made them.

 

Sister Cindy Sheehan tore through your carpet of rhetorical bombs

broke through the frosted glass of pious platitudes echoing through

the mighty marbled bunkers of government

Her fighting vehicle was not made by Bradley her ammunition not in

short supply her simple question pierced the armor of official aplomb.

Why?

 

From that day more eyes were peeled to see your naked lies revealed

A million more converted to the truth that cannot be diverted.

You can take the nation into your storm of oedipal complaint

without reason or restraint but you cannot hide

from Jesus on your shoulder. And now no matter where you turn

sound bites.

 

Sometimes they say the dharma is not pretty

which means that one day you will know

maybe many lives from now

that lock and load is not the road

to our survival.

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