what i did in the war

“. . .keeping the company of ghosts. . .”

Matt Borczon says he didn’t fight during the war in Afghanistan, but he’s fighting in its aftermath.  You can read more about this fine poet and his chapbook A Clock of Human Bones here.

it’s hard
to explain
to civilians
that my
gun was
locked up
in an iso
container
for the
whole time
I was
in Afghanistan
that I
did not
fight this
war I
worked in
a hospital
at the
craziest
point of
the war
but no
I did not
fight the
war
I watched
it from
the distance
of a
severed arm
watched through
the holes in
marines chests
and stomachs
through the
eye sockets
of children
shredded by
hellfire helicopters
but I
did not
fight the
war
I prepared
gauze for
wounds and
vacuums to
suction blood
I cleaned
dead bodies
for coffins
for planes
for home
for broken
families
I bleached
mattresses
between patients
and served
meals to
soldiers with
no hands
to eat with
but I
did not
fight the
war
I searched
for missing
limbs and
spoke with
angry village
elders and
was hit
by an
Afghan prisoner
for trying
to help
him stand
but I
did not
fight the
war
and it
wasn’t until
I was in
Kuwait at
a stress
debriefing
that I
ever heard
the words
compassion fatigue
or secondary PTSD
so I came home
unaware of
how it
would feel
to hear
helicopters
at night
or how
nightmares
could make
me soak my
sheets with
sweat and
how panic
would make
me ruin
my children
or how I
could lose
days upon
days in
memories
keeping
the company
of ghosts
fantasizing
about my
own death
in order
to feel
like an
end was
in sight
but I
did not
fight the
war
I inhabited
the war
was forced
by blood
to adapt
by death
to adapt
by shock
and awe
to adapt
until the
day they
sent me
home with
no gauze
no bleach
no morphine
pump no
tool or
instructions
to readjust
to turn
it off
to forgive
or forget
so no
I did
not fight
the war
but I
am still
fighting
every single
day

– Matt Borczon
First published in Fried Chicken and Coffee

War Poetry

Iranian poet Nooshin Azadi’s work is simply elegant. You can find more of her poetry and her beautiful photography here.  An interview about her book written with Francis Scudellari is worthwhile reading too.

write me
a poem
in which
all birds
are prisoners
of love
and the only bloody war
is between
my fingers
and the thorns
of the rose
i’m offering
to my beloved

Nooshin Azadi