War Poems – A Certain Madness

I had a significant spiritual experience in 2005. It radically changed my life. It was the second life changing spiritual experience that I have had. The first was Christian in nature. The experience came to me via my plea “what do you want me to do? What should I do now?” The experience was the answer. This experience was shamanic in nature. Shamanism is something that I have studied for years. This experience lasted about 6 weeks and made me appear to be having a “breakdown” of some sort. My friends were quite worried. My husband trusted me but worried nonetheless. It was very dramatic, painful and ecstatic. I knew that I was doing exactly what I was meant to do. None the less I hung on for dear life. It was extremely hard to remain grounded. To do so I engaged the services of three different people. I remember one particularly humorous act (although I as not laughing at the time). I found myself purposefully in Forest Park a great deal answering to my experience. I was in touch with a Great Horned Owl and a Red-Tailed Hawk who each resides in this huge park. One evening I was meant to take to the hawk, as an act of thanks, a chicken wing and place it upon a particular iron pole that was 5 inches in diameter and about 3 feet high that sat in the middle of the ball fields. It was Friday night. My husband kindly came with me to Straub’s the family grocery where I shop. On Friday night the place is mobbed. So, I get in line at the butchers and wait until my turn. There is quite a wait. When it is finally my turn I order one chicken wing. Everyone else in line waiting their turn goes nuts. One chicken wing? Well no actually just a half of a wing I do not want the drummy.

For all of my life veterans were to be thought of on Memorial Day and on Veterans day. I was conceived immediately after WWII. So, my relation to veterans was not unusual. After my experience in 2005 that included experiencing the emotional torment of those who have seen battle changed me radically. I studied war. I volunteered at the VA for several years and I gained a healthy respect and love for veterans. I might add I truly gained a deep respect and love for Vietnam Vets as they are of my generation. I also acquired an abhorrence for war. I truly came to understand “love the warrior, hate the war. Most cannot enter into that cliche and act upon it. It is very tricky and very difficult.

The other thing that I did was write about 20 poems about war, veterans, acts of war … really anything that came out of my experience that year. I wish to post them here for critique, literary critique. The changes that I make as a result of this criticism will be made in my files, not within the blog post. I will thank you a head of time for your reading and criticism. My first poem has been up and critiqued so I will begin with the second. It is titled: “A Certain Madness.” It is about those who attended one particular writing class at the VA.

A Certain Madness

Each one came, soldier, marine, airman, frog
walking quietly as if wrapped from within
the cocoon of his own world.

War’s sad energy like a gray
heavy mist lay upon the shoulders of each,
reality spiking their dull black piercing shadows.

Each man sat at the table abandoned.
“Just a word”?
“Coffee please”.

“May we write yet?”
And then he stood.
A large and heavy presence, poorly balanced.

He shouted …
“Don’t you see them?
There, in the corners … one in each corner.”

“How dare they come here?
I ought-a know,
I was with the CIA.”

Then he sat down defeated again.
He seemed to relax until another
Stream of madness crept out of his throat.

“I will NOT be giving you a sample today!
There will be no writing samples.
THEY … are here for that reason you know, to collect them.”

And I thought to myself,
Does the madness hide the pain?
Or perhaps this pain drives one mad.

2008 © Liz Rice-Sosne

The Afghan Middle-Class

I have not written a poem in some time. I have not been inspired – and I cannot tell you why. Perhaps with age comes an inability to multitask. Perhaps I have been gathering inspiration and now it is time to write a bit.

The New York Times is my computers Home Page. Some of you know that war has long given me inspiration. Today one of the headlines is: “34,000 U.S. Troops to Exit Afghanistan Within a Year.” This headline has five photos next to it, yet they are a part of another article titled: “New Afghan Middle Class Fears for the Future.” Each photo is current. I find the first photo riveting. It is modern but looks like a painting done in the fashion of realism, but set in the latter 19th century. Poem linked to dVerse Poets Pub OpenLinkNight Week 83.

The Afghan Middle-Class
Your country in ruins, toppled, rubble all around you.
Yet oblivious you stand at the bar ready to drink the blood of your brothers.

Yes, you are the middle class, the class that capitalism and war have built.
In your dark Brooks Brothers suit you stand at the bar Martini in hand.

Confidence gives you a slight aura of a halo. But it is the wrong color betraying your motives.
You don’t see those behind, pressing about you, men and women in tribal dress.

For you it is about the money, the power.
For them it is about little pieces of freedom.

How long will her face be uncovered, her dark glasses go un-cracked?
What peace has come to them through ten years of war?

War torn, this a country of fragmented pieces without peace yearns
To be put together and made whole. Will you rebuild with these shards, this detritus of war?

Or will the broken buildings simply become bunkers for the next battle?
As I look beyond the holes in the earth, the dusty playground, I see new tombs of the rich, ugly monolithic apartments built with acts of corruption.

They create a backdrop for war-youth playing kickball in the dust.
Afghanistan has a new and fragile middle class.

A middleclass made all the more fragile by a thin partition,
the wall pushing back against poverty, ever present.

The headline reads: “Fears of the Future Haunt a Budding Generation of Afghan Strivers.”
The strivers are in their tall semi-safely constructed compound.

They are separated from the youth playing in the dust of the street.
The strivers are mere feet from poverty. How long before they fall to the next war predator?

Always the illusion of safety, created by the money of corruption separates one from poverty, until poverty comes knocking on your door again.
Better, so much better to dismantle the wall yourself and meld with a piece of that poverty, lifting up rather than separating.

Yes, what will become of the middle-class?
The middle-class is in their wasteland.