Saturday, September 11, 2004

Reflections from an Army brat

Though really, I'm not the traditional Army brat--I don't know if there's a nickname for children of Active Reservists. These kids don't move around from base to base but rather say goodbye to parents one weekend every month, a backwards joint custody agreement.

And yes, it's September 11. My father is spending his weekend in Wisconsin for his monthly duty to the government, and I found myself forgetting the date altogether. I spent the afternoon laughing over a family dinner, foreign foods and a different language altogether. While I don't take the events of September 11, 2001, lightly, nor do I want to disrespect the lives lost, I feel like my day was entirely appropriate. It was a celebration of humanity, of America's diversity, of hope and future and for a few hours I forgot about terrorism. I sat next to a woman who floated to the Keys in a boat, who is thankful for her freedom but who still shudders at the sound of overhead aircraft.

Melodramatic? Perhaps. And I don't know exactly what I'm saying: former conservative turned liberal (at Hope, of all places). Army kid who disagrees with the war. But in all of this, I am glad to be a poet, because I find a way to express these idiosyncracies, to give voice to the confusion.

The following is a first draft that's been running through my head for awhile. I finally put it down today, not realizing the date until after I finished archiving it (I try to write the date at the bottom of each draft to keep them straight). For clarity: this is not about my father, but a friend in the Marine corps. He recently returned from a second tour in Iraq.


You lost your bible to the Tigris
when your pack slipped. Everything
was lost. You tell this to my sister,
who sent the book with cookies

while you were still in boot camp,
assure her you carried it with you to distant
shores with a faint promise to read,
like you told your mother you slipped

while sharpening your knives.
You knew not to tell her, confided
instead in me the story of the Iraqi
dissident in Baghdad crowd charging

with bayonet drawn, how you
took care of him (at least,
that's how you worded it). Offhand,
you once mentioned killing bodies.

I wonder if you do believe this,
believe that your pack fell, believe
you slipped, believe in a body without
a soul. I can see you on the edge

of the Tigris, gripping the sword high above
your head before casting it into the water.

11 September 2004


Blogger Matt said...

This is stunning. Speechless am I. I know what you mean about the Sept. 11.

The juxtoposition of the stories we can and cannot tell is a strong and difficult ideological conflict. It is quite fitting when wrestling with continued morning of Sept. 11, or allowing our wounds to heal. (Besides, we've now wravaged a good chunk of the islamic world across several nations, not just one island). But that conflict between what you tell to who is one to continue playing with.

Perhaps you might play with the title more. Dodging...? The God? Spirit? Swords? You have so much you could do with this title, play around with some alternatives. Although the "Dodging" would be much more disarming. No pun intended.

I'd remove the "(at least that is how you worded it)" and put the already colloquial "took care of him" in quote marks or italics. It is more subtle but we'll understand.

Another idea I thought about was what you might do with adding some unorthodox form here. Maybe make this appear like a bible passage. Make stanzas and line breaks resemble a psalm. insert chorus lines or something. You could even put little numbers in here, it might be sacreliege, but little numbers like in the bible would give a unique feeling that this is someone's testimony that he or she would be persicuted for telling. It might be fitting, it might be way off in another world.

Regardless, I am stunned. It gave me a lot to think about. It reminds me how little it feels like we are fighting a war when we don't see the true effects first hand. A tank is not rolling outside my apartment. People are being shot, but not in my streets. Monuments are falling, but not outside my town hall.

Thanks for the opportunity to reflect in a very new way, you cute army brat you!

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