Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Listening to Birds...Poem for Today

Soldiers stand guard, and burn wood in old 55 gallon drums with holes punched in the side...
They get the wood from used pallets. The flames reflect off their faces at night, turning their faces orange, and enhancing the blackness that pours around them like honey. The smoke from the drums rises and mixes with the dust and mist.

There are some small sparrows that live in the cracks of the buildings near where I am. They twirl and skim across the hard ground, which is almost the same color as they are. They seem to be like friendly sprites, singing and bouncing their way between the sky and ground. I smiled to see them, and I wrote about them.

Just Looking at Birds

Tiny brown sparrows,
Same color as the ground,
A nothing color, like they are made from earth.

Flitting, dancing, posing,
Skimming like a crazy swarm of bad baby-angels,
Over dust and trash.

I scan around quickly.
Left, right, up, down.
Perimeter cleared…
Then I look at them.

They must be happy,
Like little imps,
Bringing back memories,
Of childhood and smiles and laughing eyes,

So alive,
I can’t find any pain in them,

They are way too fast for me to touch,
But all I want is to feel their life,
Collect some joy that is in them.

Right now, I feel like I never loved anything more.

February 2008

Monday, February 18, 2008

14 looking like 10, going on 40...

I haven't talked about what I do here...Perhaps sometimes I don't feel like I do a lot, but perhaps that is not ours to say.

This evening a group of children were brought in to the hospital by ambulance. Mixed ages, one kid looked like he was about two, the others were perhaps up to 14 years old. Some awful injuries. I don't know the story, maybe playing in a field, apparently some mortars landed on them and a house nearby. My very qualified colleagues took the serious patients, and I worked on a young child. He was scrawny, dark eyes, black dusty hair. Quiet, observant. Dried blood caking and cracking on his hands.

He had a large ragged wound on his forearm, and the mid-shaft of his ulna was smashed and splintered per our x-ray. He was quiet and pensive. He spoke some English too. I try to stroke his hair, tell him he will be fine. He didn't grimace or complain when we took blood from him.

With all the other trauma going on in the emergency room I try to stand in front of him and block his view from everything else. I ask him about soccer and what he likes to do. But he is nauseated from the morphine and glum.

Our surgeon took him to the operating room later. The child said he was 14, but he was not like the huge kids we have back in the States. ...He was as light as a feather, and looked more like he was ten or even eight years old. My medical colleagues are wonderful, so professional and skilled. I pale in comparison to them, so I just try to do what I can.

I am hoping the child will forget what he was seeing around him. The detritus of the ER, bandages, blood stained gauze, blankets on the floor, CPR being performed on a patient on one side of him. Staff all mingling and blending into a whirl of activity and purposeful action.

Peace is my wish for him. He seems strong, older than his years. He looks a bit like me, but he is more handsome of course! I wish my stupid smiling at him could actually make him better.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentines Day from the Battlefield....Poem for Today.

Tried to make a special attempt to get on the web today. Happy valentines Day to all. I wish everyone the joy that comes from being loved and able to love. It is a wonderful, powerful and amazing feeling. I wish those of you that have it may know it always, and those without may have strength and contentment till they find it .

I Guess I don't have it...or I lost it, or whatever. Not a cheerful poem today. It's just what I want to put up...

My Brotherhood with the Animals

There is a bone thin and pale street dog near here.
The children throw stones at it,
- Yesterday they gave it food.

It stands today on bent legs,
Trying to make itself very small,
It takes the acute sting of pebbles on its flanks.

Anemic brown and colorless.
Turning in low spirals to spread the pain.
It is lost too and whimpering.

I think, if the children offer it food,
It will come back again tomorrow.

I hate it…the way it craves food like love.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Global Conflict...

I have seen soldiers and police from several countries here in Iraq. Then there are the non-US contractors who are from Eastern Europe, South and South East Asia, and Africa. Most of the staff have menial jobs and try to minimize their presence, and be as unobtrusive as possible. Then of course, our own US personnel are a diverse bunch of ethnicities and upbringing. Soldiers may be from anywhere from Rhode Island to Samoa.

This mix of people makes me think of this as a World War, and to a great extent it is being fought on a global scale.
I do feel a responsibility to represent the US positively to any foreign person I meet.

I was briefly stationed in Italy a couple of years ago. I made good vibes with the local host nation staff. I was just interested and respectful of the culture and language. I will never forget when I was jokingly asked by one of the Italian staff "Are you sure you are in the Army? You don't act like an American?" (Even though they saw me in my uniform each day.) Well, I guess I took that as a compliment! I hope what they meant was that I was very open and warm to the staff, and courteous and respectful, and always acted in a humble way. It was their country, no matter if we were on a US base.

If one of the foreign civilian contractors can go home and say to their families and friends , "The US military were respectful, enthusiastic and optimistic. They are good guys and girls." We win another little battle, and it is the right thing to do.

Friday, February 8, 2008

For My Brothers and Sisters in Arms...

Can’t Get Colder...

This evening’s dust and mist,
Makes our floodlight beams seem like solid bars,
Everything is like I have dusty yellow lenses in my eyes.

The lights and swirling of air don’t seem friendly tonight.
Glum figures pass me, head down, walking fast,
Skimming over lit up dirt –crazy with shadows,

They are a nothing shade of granular grey, and silent,
Like purgatory ghosts who don’t care.
Moist fog slits through my uniform,
Clammy hands stuffed in pockets.

Everyone pulls their body in,
Quiet, all thoughts turned inward.
Shriveled into nuggets of men.

Soon, I stop fighting the cold and let myself shake,
With eyes closed very hard.

Checking always checking…

I reach down to feel the industrial steel,
Of Government Issued weapons,
Contracted to someone…somewhere
For use by us…in some place.

Touching the wet metal,
It reaches back for me,
Surprising me, like I suddenly woke up alone,
Not knowing where I slept.

I try to forget who I am,
And the night starts to feel much colder.

February 2008

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Hersheys and Apaches...and banality

I was munching on a Hershey bar yesterday...with almonds too. It was a bit dry and tasteless like old chocolate can get sometimes. Anyway, I could have been walking in the dirt back home. Next thing, I hear a sharp whine and look up to see two Army attack helicopters knifing through the sky maybe less than 100 feet above me. I looked up to see the sharks teeth painted on one of them...Yeah...I'm sure as hell not home.

The power and capability of our nation fills me with awe sometime. I guess perhaps it can leave the individual feeling like a tiny tooth on a small gear in a large machine in some some vast engine.
But I suppose we all have our role to play.

Beautiful evening tonight, mild, sunny and I also don't feel too bad. I am circumspective, if that's a word, but not too bad.

I know that most of what I write here is pretty banal and day to day stuff, but I don;t want to say a whole lot about the places I am for security reasons...mainly cause they tell us not to, and it is the right thing to do...I think there is enough day to day stuff to write anyway.

Been working on a poem...put it up tomorrow I hope.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Concrete, concrete everywhere...

My compound is surrounded by a series of high, maze like concrete blast walls which are laid in segments. Along with these are shorter concrete barriers, like you see on the interstate back home, that serve to divide lanes during construction. They add a bleak industrial look to things, and this evening I had a run in with a short barrier, which I lost...

It is amazing how invisible these dull grey obstacles are at night, and I crashed square into one that resulted in me almost tumbling over the other side, just like in a cartoon. The wierd thing was, I walked right into it while my eyes were open and I was looking straight ahead! UGGGHH... I doubled over the barrier and thought for a moment I had broken a rib, especially since I felt so winded...If I had seen myself I would have laughed my ass off.

Almost wished I had my armor on. On my home to my tent (just got to a new camp today), I almost sliced my nose off with the cable stay for for the entry flap ....

I think I will just stay in at night...I was planning to take a shower, but at the rate I am going I would slip and break a leg.

Coming to a new place is always tough. I was getting pretty comfortable at the previous camp, so now it becomes a function of relearning the system and location of things here...Today, I thought of Charlie Sheen's words from Platoon when he comments about being in Vietnam, " I think I made a big mistake coming here."

Just thought it, I don't know. Perhaps I will look at things differently in the daylight.