March 9, 2005

THESE ARE THE THINGS: The Found Poetry of War

BLACKFIVE BRINGS US A LONG REPORT FROM THE FIELD with the deceptively bland title : Air Force Pilot Experiences Ground Combat

"Here is a report from an Air Force pilot who was assigned to several operations in Iraq as the Forward Air Controller - the USAF guy responsible for calling in Air Strikes and communicating with the aircraft above a ground combat mission."
It is more a memoir than a report and, although lengthy, I commend it to you.

By way of example, here's an excerpt from a long block of text that I've broken into a kind of poetry by this anonymous officer.

Do you doubt it? Take it to your nearest Poetry Slam and give it an outing, or just read it aloud to yourself. You'll see what I mean.

Something to read in response to the next strident reporter claiming to be the victim of soldiers much too quick on the draw.

These Are the Things That Wear On You
by Anonymous, Air Force

The things no one really talked about,
or even thought about much:
except for one percent of your time --
when you had a free moment --
those thoughts crossed your mind
that you wish didn't.

Stupid things like:
I wonder if going to the port-a-john today
will be a life or death decision based
on which one I choose, and at what time I go,
based on when and where
the mortars or rockets impact.

Thoughts like :
I wonder if the piano wire
attempting to decapitate us
will be strung between the trees or telephone poles
along our route tonight.

Things like: I wonder if I'd rather lose both legs like the guy the other day, or be killed.

The subconscious looking away:
from the broken down vehicle
that you drive by
because it may explode by your vehicle.

The tightening of muscles
and quick shot of adrenaline:
as the driver veers
6 inches off the road
and you wonder
if you're going to hit
a triple stacked mine.

The nervousness:
that every vehicle you pass
could at anytime
come slamming into your vehicle
as a suicide vehicle borne improvised explosive device.

The curiosity:
as to whether or not
the dead body on the corner
with the dog eating it
is just another dead body
or an IED.

The momentary thoughts while eating:
that someone in the chow hall
could be wearing a suicide vest,
and try blowing the place up
like in Mosul.

The weight on your shoulders:
from dealing with dead Marines on one hand
from previous car bombers at checkpoints,
and dead 5 year old Iraqi kids on the other hand,
because, according to the driver,
he was reaching down on the floorboard
to pick up his kid's toy,
and did not see the Marines
motioning for him to stop,
firing flares,
and then warning shots,
and then finally
taking the final step,
and putting rounds into the vehicle
to get it to stop;
scared for their own lives
and following the prescribed escalation
of force to a T.

The fact that:
rockets and mortars
are landing around you,
and going off,
and at any moment
one could come crashing down
next to you,
and there's nothing
you can do about it.

The numerous nights:
of little to no sleep
because, even though
you were extremely tired,
endless thoughts of work,
combat situations,
and things that could be done
to defeat the enemy,
and protect our Marines,
wouldn't stop
running through your mind.

These are the things that wear on you.

Posted by Vanderleun at March 9, 2005 11:48 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

What a fabulous post. Found poetry is right. This is the best excerpt from a milblogger I've seen that tells us what they go through every day. And we think we're stressed! We can never be grateful enough.

Posted by: Jille at March 9, 2005 5:55 PM

Damn, Gerard. Just . . . damn.

I mean that on the good way, of course.

Posted by: ccwbass at March 10, 2005 1:17 AM

Gerard, This post blew me away. I read your poem first, and then much later went back and read the article by this soldier. Then I read your poem again and was comforted in that way only poetry can comfort. Oddly, the words of the poem are hardly comforting, but comfort they did. Oh please send this to the soldier. He deserves to know what he does each day is poetry of the highest order - a poetry the rest of us can only stand in awe of.

Posted by: Amy at March 10, 2005 7:33 AM

damn is right...
Took me back and reminded me of the caliber of the men and women I served with. God Speed.

Posted by: rick at March 10, 2005 11:29 AM


Oh, that is so cool! I read the initial report from the AF officer, but I love your poetic version. Simply Awesome!!!

Posted by: AFSister at March 10, 2005 11:58 AM

Yep. That's poetry.

Posted by: kobekko at March 10, 2005 9:20 PM

It gave me chills. If you haven't seen the elephant you can't really know what it is like.
Just too much
John 50/54

Posted by: John at March 11, 2005 6:38 PM

The respect this poem brings is amazing. To be able to go through those obsessive compulsions each day and still be willing to fight and serve takes a well-rounded, blessed individual. May God continue to bless and pour out mercy and grace to all who serve in His name and have the integrity it takes.

Posted by: Britt at October 28, 2005 6:38 AM

It set me back to when my grandmpa told me old war stories.. Just Simple Undiscribable.

Bless All Of Those Who Risk There Lives And Protect.

Posted by: at September 17, 2007 5:53 AM

This was just, wow. It really had me thinking, about everything that we think is stressful, but our Men and Women in arms over there would love to have, instead of those unnerving thoughts running through their mind.

It was beautiful

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Posted by: latina sex trailers at September 26, 2007 9:33 PM

That was a very touching poem. It was damn good. I hope everybody that I know will read this poem because it teaches you the hardships of a soldier in war.

Posted by: Luis Pita at October 31, 2007 6:43 AM

That was probably the hardest thing for me to read. My best friend in a marine and I am so proud of him and everyone else who is over there willing to give their lives for our freedom. It is so moving, and eye opening. thank you for writing it!
God Bless

Posted by: Evangeline Lokken at November 1, 2007 8:03 AM

This is amazing. It completely blew me away. I had to write a response poem for my Creative Writing Class. They gave us a list of poems to read, then we had to write a response on the one of our choice, and I chose this one. The words are incredible. They are things that most people will never have to worry about dealing with. They are a totally different level of emotions.

Posted by: Meghan Meeks at November 28, 2007 6:50 AM

This is an extremely good piece of poetry. I'm not that into poetry usually, but this just drew me in, and I found myself wishing for more.

Posted by: Lauren at September 25, 2009 10:45 AM