Tuesday, October 30, 2007

What Every Soldier Should Know

For various reasons both obvious and subtle, warriors and poets are often at odds. Here's a poem written by a soldier, Brian Turner, which made it into Best American Poems 2007. You can here him read it out loud, with a brief intro, here.

What Every Soldier Should Know

To yield to force is an act of necessity, not of will; it is at best an act of prudence.
—Jean-Jacques Rousseau

If you hear gunfire on a Thursday afternoon,
it could be a wedding, or it could be for you.

Always enter a home with your right foot;
the left is for cemeteries and unclean places.

O-guf! Tera armeek is rarely useful.
It means Stop or I’ll shoot.

Sabah el khair is effective.
It means Good Morning.

Inshallah means Allah be willing.
Listen well when it is spoken.

You will hear the RPG coming for you.
Not so the roadside bomb.

There are bombs under the overpasses,
in trashpiles, in bricks, in cars.

There are shopping carts with clothes soaked
in foogas, a sticky gel of homemade napalm.

Parachute bombs and artillery shells
sewn into the carcasses of dead farm animals.

A graffiti sprayed onto the overpasses:
I will kill you, American.

Men wearing vests rigged with explosives
walk up, raise their arms, and say Inshallah.

There are men who earn eighty dollars
to attack you, five thousand to kill.

Small children who will play with you,
old men with their talk, women who offer chai—

and any one of them
may dance over your body tomorrow.

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