Two Poems on Iraq

There are subjects on which I would blog more, if I only knew how. One is Iraq. I can direct you to the Evangelical theologian David Gushee’s “Against Torture,” a fuller version of an article in Christianity Today. Gushee argues against torture because it violates the intrinsic dignity of the human being, mistreats the vulnerable, places too much power in the hands of the government, dehumanizes the torturer, and erodes the character of the nation that tortures. (I posted on torture here; you will have to scroll down to “The Problem with Torture.”)

But on Iraq more generally, I would just like to share two poems by Brian Turner, from his recent collection Here, Bullet. Turner served in the US Army for seven years, and was an infantry team leader for a year in Iraq. These poems, written in Iraq, are more eloquent than anything that I could ever say.

The Baghdad Zoo
Is the world safer? No. It’s not safer in Iraq.
-Hans Blix

An Iraqi northern brown bear mauled a man
on a street corner, dragging him down an alley
as shocked onlookers shouted and threw stones.

Tanks rolled their heavy tracks
past the museum and up to the Ministry of Oil.
A gunner watched a lion chase down a horse.

Eaten down to their skeletons, the giraffes
looked prehistoric, unreal, their necks
too fragile, too graceful for the 21st Century.

Dalmatian pelicans and marbled teals
flew over, frightened by the rotorwash
of Blackhawk helicopters touching down.

One baboon escaped the city limits.
It was found wandering in the desert, confused
by the wind, the blowing sands of the barchan dunes.


16 Iraqi Policemen

The explosion left a hole in the roadbed
large enough to fit a mid-sized car.
It shattered concrete, twisted metal,
busted storefront windows in sheets
and lifted a BMW chassis up onto a rooftop.

The shocking blood of the men
forms an obscene art: a moustache, alone
on a sidewalk, a blistered hand’s gold ring
still shining, while a medic, Doc Lopez,
pauses to catch his breath, to blow it out
hard, so he might cup the left side of a girl’s face
in one hand, gently, before bandaging
the half gone missing.

Allah must wander in the crowd
as I do, dazed by the pure concussion
of the blast, among sirens, voices
of the injured, the boots of running soldiers,
not knowing whom to touch first,
for the dead policemen cannot be found,
here a moment before, then vanished.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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