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.
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
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.