Don’t worry too much that someone isn’t having their throat cut
while you sit on your couch,
while you flick through the channels,
While you peacefully slouch.
Don’t worry too much that there’s no-one beyond the wall
while you turn the next page,
while you inwardly rage,
and you do nothing at all.
Don’t worry too much that some hold the tide
while you splash in the shallows,
while you pray at All Hallows,
While you comfortably hide.
Don’t worry too much that their names are unknown
while you make your donations,
while you curse those cruel nations,
While they die alone.
Don’t worry too much that young men are dying
while you swallow the Kool-Aid,
With the price only they paid,
While our leaders are lying.
Don’t worry too much while you sleep fast tonight
that you’ll not wake in the morning,
to a new day that’s dawning,
That you’ll not be all right.
Our leaders sit in comfort while our young men and women put themselves in danger attempting to fix their incompetence. Armchair experts write poetry and advice to anyone who will listen, imagining they know what the streets of Kabul might be like. A small group of silent men and some women work tirelessly in ways that will never be reported in their own lifetime to save life and take life, in order to save life. They will come home quietly unannounced and Un-flagged to a nation of virtue signalling ignoramuses who imagine they could do what they do simply by thinking about it in a bloody armchair. Many of the silent actors will descend into madness and drunkenness, some will make good but none will get the credit they deserve and all will have to live with what they did and saw with no thanks or recognition. While every tom dick and harry knows better than those who can never speak.
Reverse search a pool of blood to its foetus of ideas,
calculate trajectories to a pin-head through the years.
While stippling marks proximity the silenced tongue won’t speak,
for its hell that takes our liberty when damp Earth entombs the meek.
In cavities of ancient skulls the dust of time drowns words
where cave walls once were libraries, now echoes fall unheard.
Where hit-list’s flamed in burn-pits and armies forged their prize,
re-written were our histories and their curses damned our eyes.
Then blinded willingly or not we sweep ahead in time
we carve sacred memorials in elevated rhyme,
and the horrors of reality will not be writ upon this page
as we flounder in our duality it is guilt that we assuage.
What beauty comes of war
from all that’s black as blood
from damaged mind and broken bone
What beauty comes of war
What beauty comes of ugliness
from torment trapped in blinding light
from silver landscapes blasted white
What beauty comes of war
Yet how remembrance uses it
the flags and slow lament
with dignity and gratitude and scarlet sentiment
Is beauty in the orphan child
a mind insane
a lonesome soul
Is beauty in a life bereft
to live without a love
to sleep alone and cold
If yes a terrible beauty comes of war
But grim remembrance bares the truth
of beauty never seen
whilst only those with scars are proof
to those who’ve never been
Štimlje revisited (unseen casualties)
Travelling across open flatland toward Štimlje the ground begins to rise.
Driving on through the tight enclosed lanes of the town to the far side as if to leave,
a battered overgrown compound looms into view, its heavy mesh fences collapsing and dilapidated in parts.
This is Štimlje Mental Asylum. The patients are unable or unwilling to leave, they have been abandoned left to fend for themselves or die.
The staff have fled because this is a war zone.
Snow lays in muddy patches around about, stained with shit and blood.
A slug-like legless form drags itself through excrement seemingly going nowhere fast,
its insane leer and wolf-like howling splits the cold air, this thing is human.
We continue systematically on foot, through unlit grey buildings and rooms, behind each door a shocking portal to another circle of hell.
Women, children, half animals, intermittent screeching barking and yelps.
Self harming, open wounds, and the gut wrenching stench of filth.
In one room no bigger than a single garage space, at least fifty naked forms stand silently shivering.
They stare out of hollow skulls straight through me as I stand silhouetted in the doorway.
They seem to be mostly men its hard to tell, their emaciated bodies look sexless.
Upon closer inspection there are a few women present, Jesus! What might have happened to them in here? Their hair is matted in clumps.
There were just four of us a small recce team we could do nothing we had nothing, we were staring into hell and were struck dumb by it.
We drove in Silence back to Pristina not one single fucking word.
I was strong, fit, able in mind and body. I was in my late thirties and this wasn’t my first war.
I got back to a quiet place and hid myself, I cried and shook like a pathetic child, big tough fucking soldier eh?
And sometimes that is how war fucks you, slowly. Either that or you get blown to shit.