April 4th was the 65th Anniversary of the founding of NATO, the North American Treaty Organization. Under it’s Basic Points section, its purpose is “to safeguard the freedom and security of its members through political and military means. NATO is committed to the peaceful resolution of disputes, but if diplomatic relations fail, it will use military force.” There are twenty-eight countries that are members of NATO, including the US, United Kingdom, Germany, Greece, France, and Italy. The original headquarters were in London, England, but the current headquarters are in Brussels, Belgium. Some of the major things that they are and have been involved in is Security and preventing Terrorism in Afghanistan, the Mediterranean and the African Coast, defending Turkey against the Syrians, the Kosovo Conflict, and assisting the African Union in Darfur, Sudan. Keeping these locations in mind, I figured I would use poems related to them.

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The first is about war in general, and the effect it has on us all. The second is about the war in Afghanistan, written by a soldier. The third is about Darfur, as seen through the eyes of a refugee girl, written by an American poet who visited the Sudanese refugee camps in Uganda.

The War Works Hard
by Dunya Mikhail
translated by Elizabeth Winslow

 

How magnificent the war is!

How eager

and efficient!

Early in the morning

it wakes up the sirens

and dispatches ambulances

to various places

swings corpses through the air

rolls stretchers to the wounded

summons rain

from the eyes of mothers

digs into the earth

dislodging many things

from under the ruins…

Some are lifeless and glistening

others are pale and still throbbing…

It produces the most questions

in the minds of children

entertains the gods

by shooting fireworks and missiles

into the sky

sows mines in the fields

and reaps punctures and blisters

urges families to emigrate

stands beside the clergymen

as they curse the devil

(poor devil, he remains

with one hand in the searing fire)…

The war continues working, day and night.

It inspires tyrants

to deliver long speeches

awards medals to generals

and themes to poets

it contributes to the industry

of artificial limbs

provides food for flies

adds pages to the history books

achieves equality

between killer and killed

teaches lovers to write letters

accustoms young women to waiting

fills the newspapers

with articles and pictures

builds new houses

for the orphans

invigorates the coffin makers

gives grave diggers

a pat on the back

and paints a smile on the leader’s face.

It works with unparalleled diligence!

Yet no one gives it

a word of praise.

 

Sunset Vigil – Sgt Andy McFarlane

Note: Sgt Andy McFarlane, currently serving in Afghanistan. (November 2009)

The news is spread far and wide
Another comrade has sadly died
A sunset vigil upon the sand
As a soldier leaves this foreign land

We stand alone, and yet as one
In the fading light of a setting sun
We’ve all gathered to say goodbye
To our fallen comrade who’s set to fly

The eulogy’s read about their life
Sometimes with words from pals or wife
We all know when the CO’s done
What kind of soldier they’d become

The padre then calls us all to pray
The bugler has Last Post to play
The cannon roars and belches flame
We will recall, with pride, their name

A minute’s silence stood in place
As tears roll down the hardest face
Deafening silence fills the air
With each of us in personal prayer

Reveille sounds and the parade is done
The hero remembered, forgotten by none
They leave to start the journey back
In a coffin draped in the Union Jack.

 

War Metaphysics for a Sudanese Girl
Adrie Kusserow

I leave the camp, unable to breathe,

me Freud girl, after her interior,
she Lost Girl, after my purse,

her face:
dark as eggplant,
her gaze:
unpinnable, untraceable,
floating, open, defying the gravity
I was told keeps pain in place.

Maybe trauma doesn’t harden,
packed, tight as sediment at the bottom of her psyche,
dry and cracked as the desert she crossed,
maybe memory doesn’t stalk her
with its bulging eyes.

Once inside the body
does war move up or down,
maybe the body pisses it out,
maybe it dissipates, like sweat and fog
under the heat of a colonial God,
and in America, maybe it flavors dull muzungu lives,
each refugee a bouillon cube of horror.

Maybe war can’t be soaked up
by humans alone,
the way the rains in Sudan
move across the land,
drenching the ground, animals, camps, sky,
no end to its roaming
until further out, among the planets,
a stubborn galaxy finally mops it up,
and it sits, hushed,
red, sober,

and below, the humans in the north
with their penchant for denial,
naming it aurora borealis.

*Muzungu means “white person” in many Bantu languages of east, central and South Africa

 

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