11 April 2013

Stick a Book of Poetry in Your Left Cargo Pocket

Because I don't have a lot of time or eyesight to read big books these days, I've taken to packing a small book of war poetry in my daily Bag of Tricks. ("It's not a purse, it's a satchel!") I often grab a few lines of sanity, reflection, or inspiration while brown-bagging it in my cubicle at work.

Most recently, I've been sampling from a book of British war poetry, "Heroes: 100 Poems from the New Generation of War Poets," published in 2011. If I still wore ACU pants every day,  the 170-page book would fit neatly into a cargo pocket. The collection is divided into three sections: "Leaving," "Active Service," and "Coming Home." Each poem is presented with the authors' name, rank, and age, along with a unit, time, and/or place of service.

The secret of humor is surprise, and so it is with poetry. I like generous helpings of each. I laughed with recognition upon reading the words of Cpl. Danny Martin, 28, who served with 1st Staffords Battle Group, Iraq (Operation Telic) in 2003 and 2005. His poem "Acknowledgements" resonated with my own conflicted feelings about leaving home and family, and joining one's buddies on a journey that would be a grand adventure, if only people didn't have to die.

Here is the poem is in its entirety:
By Cpl. Danny Martin
My thanks to Hollywood
When you showed me John Rambo
Stitching up his arm with no anaesthetic
And giving them 'a war they won't believe'
I knew then my calling, the job for me 
Thanks also to the recruitment adverts
For showing me soldiers whizzing around on skis
And for sending sergeants to our school
To tell us of the laughs, the great food, the pay
The camaraderie 
I am, dear taxpayer, forever in your debt
You paid for my all-inclusive pilgrimage
One year of basking in the Garden of Eden
(I haven't quite left yet) 
Thanks to Mum and thanks to Dad
Fu-- it,
Thanks to every parent
Flushing with pride for their brave young lads
Buying young siblings toy guns and toy tanks
Waiting at the airport
Waving their flags

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