I think, not of those I've met and lost contact with.
I think instead of the soldiers who have lost parts of their bodies to mortar rounds, shrapnel, IEDs, things that come out of nowhere and everywhere. Out of the sky, the sand, until the sky rains down and day becomes night and night is lit up like day.
Lost friends. Arms from the elbow down, the shoulder down. Legs, feet, hands. Bare roots of what once was. Lives. Lost. Undone, unimagined, done. Fellow soldiers. The Captain whose wife was due with their fourth child, sure to be a Christmas baby. That young private just in from L.A. The 2nd Lt. on his third tour. The last troops have pulled out of Iraq. So we are told. Think, though, of the friends they’ve left behind.
But this is better expressed by one who has served.
A poem by Brian Turner – from his collection PHANTOM NOISE:
Many the healers of the body.
Where the healers of the soul?
- AHMAD SHAUQI
At the VA hospital in Long Beach, California,
Dr. Sushruta scores open a thin layer of skin
to reveal an object traveling up through muscle.
It is a kind of weeping the body does, expelling
foreign material, sometimes years after injury.
Dr. Sushruta lifts slivers of shrapnel, bits
of coarse gravel, road debris, diamond
points of glass—the minutiae of the story
reconstructing a cold afternoon in Baghdad,
November of 2005. The body offers aged cloth
from an abaya dyed in blood, shards of bone.
And if he were to listen intently, he might hear
the roughened larynx of this woman calling up
through the long corridors of flesh, saying
Allah al Akbar, before releasing
her body’s weapon, her dark and lasting gift
for this jundee Ameriki, who carries fragments
of the war inscribed in scar tissue,
a deep, intractable pain, the dull grief of it
the body must learn to absorb.