Saturday, August 24, 2013

Collateral

The poem you will find below is from the collection Change in the Wind. It would not have been written except for the idiocy (or heroism) of the perfectly ordinary human being Bradley (Chelsea) Manning, who decided to do something not so ordinary. He /she decided to assert his /her right to be independent of his / her job and country. I believe this is the unalienable right and duty of every individual. His / her country 'thank you' was  35 years in prison. I thank her by publishing this poem.


Collateral 

(The words in italics are taken
The observers are you and me.)

July 12, 2007

The 30mm cannon fire left about
a dozen people dead
two children, two journalists: all insurgent.
Some were armed, but all now
appear to be relaxed.

Before the cannon shell rained down
the ten were largely unknown,
fathers and sons, lovers and husbands.
Two were known as Saeed and Namir,
a journalist and a cameraman.
The children are still unknown
 . . . for their own protection.

There is no question
that coalition forces, were
clearly engaged in combat operations
. . . against a hostile force,
– the Lieutenant-Colonel said, and
all was in accordance with 
the rules of armed conflict,
and the rules of engagement.
The operation was videoed
encrypted, buried, then released again
 . . . illegally

But wait, there is more.
they keep walking, and
one of them has a weapon?
A camera examines a camera
and does not recognise itself;
the man decides.






Yeah Roger. I estimate
There’s probably about twenty
Oh yeah . . . 
Hey Bushmaster element
Copy on the one-six
That’s a weapon . . . Yeah
Hotel two six: crazy horse one eight
Fucking prick
Have individuals with weapons
Have five to six individuals 
With AK 47’s
Request permission to engage

The cross marked a centre on dust cloud
and men scattered,
protecting their heads from cannon shells
with knuckles of bone as white as bleached skull.

Seven fell, one ran drunkenly,
– an out runner searching for base,
a cameraman being searched for the best shot.

Keep shootn’, keep shootn’

Saeed touches base against the shattered rubble

Keep shootin’

the cross searches him out, pokes him,
then interrupts a spasm with one final punch,
nothing but silence and dust now,
and smoke.

Roger, I got ‘em
Oops I’m sorry
God damn it Kyle
All right hahaha I hit ‘em
Bushmaster six this is bushmaster two six
Got a bunch of bodies layin’ here
Yeah we got one crawling around down there
But, uh you now, we definitely got something.  
We’re shooting some more
Roger



The already deceased individuals get on with their dying.
They do not respond.
Rising spirits of dust erase the scene.
The only protection is illusion,
so Saeed lies still


Hotel two six you need to move
To that location when Crazy Horse is done 
And get pictures, over
Six beacon Gaia
Oh, yeah, look at those dead bastards
Nice

The black and white images
now have black stains that frame.

Those dead bastards . . . .nice!
Crosshairs admire their handiwork
looking for upright lines to lock onto.
There are none.
Brick and body parts are jumbled.
Crazy horse circles, circles



There’s one guy moving down there
But he is wounded
He appears to be trying to crawl away

Saeed lifts one knee, one head.
a floundering body makes no sense

He’s getting up
Maybe he has a weapon in his hand
I’ll put two rounds near him
Yeah roger that

Saeed, legs in gutter, blood draining neatly away
pushes towards an open gate . . . sanctuary . . . 
legs, and left side do not respond . . . 
still . . . in . . .gutter.



Come on buddy
All you gotta do is pick up a weapon
Bushmaster six this is bushmaster two six
Yeah bushmaster we have a van
That is approaching and picking up the bodies
 Ok yeah
We have individuals going to the scene
Looks like . . .  possibly . . .  picking up weapons and uh bodies
Let me engage

Two children look up at the distant helicopter,
Two men run to check Saeed,
Help has arrived.
The adults are silent,
but the children have seen this all before,
so they watch the whirly bird and wonder
will it drop food, or messages, or death?

Crazy-horse Eighteen, permission to engage

Dada says stay in the van.

Come on let us shoot! Come on!

The Cross hovers hungrily
on Dada’s jellabiya,
he is trying to straighten Saeed

Bushmaster  crazyhorse One eight
They’re taking him. Roger.
We’ve got a black SU . . .  uh bongo truck
Request permission to engage. 



Then the van shudders, the dust explodes 
the shells rip from ceiling to road.
Dada says stay in the van.

Clear!

The van’s roof is unstitched

Clear!

Dust and smoke obliterates, and
the Crusader’s cross hovers once more,
frustrated and forever seeking, seeking.
Solidity lost, it is unable to deliver
its final blessing

Clear!


Crazy Horse is just a helicopter, and
its brain is made in neutral Ireland.
all the hard bits that really hurt
are stamped: Made in the USA,
with Chinese steel.
the Cross is used to focus.

I can’t shoot for some reason
I think the van is disabled . . .  I can’t shoot
I got an azimuth limit
No more shooting . . . Oh yeah look at that!
Straight through the wind shield
HA! HA! . . . twelve to fifteen. Over . . .

©Copyright Niall OConnor


Good Bookshops stocking Change in the Wind
Scribbles (Drumcondra)
Books Upstairs (College Green)
Santry Community Resource Centre

1 comment:

  1. I wish you hadn't had occasion to write this - but it's brilliant.

    ReplyDelete

Comments are welcome . . .