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to a young gunner


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to a young gunner

 

deployed to Afghanistan

 

the golden triangle

where his mate is laid down

 

he watches

auntie's trembling hands

pack goodies for him

.

(Last line was "pack his goodies")

Edited by Lake
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Hi Lake, Wow this took me by surprise. The imagery kind of hits the reader in the gut with its gentle power. Reading it over a few times I wonder if you simply left out the word "his" in the last line. Without the word we still know the goodies are for him. Or you could say "goodies for him" or "his bags". The term "his goodies" is a slang term having a sexual connotation. Of course that is not what you meant but....

 

There were interesting word choices that made this poem unique. "mate" rather than friend or comrad and auntie rather than mother, wife, or girl... These choices made the poem sound like a real. I liked this poem very much.

 

~~Tink

~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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Hi Tinker,

 

Glad you liked it. You'er very sensitive to the nuance in word choice. I did use friend in my first draft and later on changed it. "goodies for him" is good. I was not aware of the other connotation of the word 'goodies', it is used to mean sweets, treats... Good to know, I have to be careful when using it next time.

 

Actually this is shortened from a longer one, out of which I worked a few drasfts and thought it might be too obvious. I'll just post it here for comparison. Any opinions are welcome.

 

To a Young Gunner

 

deployed

to Afghanistan

after

an Iraqi summer

 

This strong-built

young man is not

21 yet, not eligible

for drinking yet

 

The Golden Triangle

where his mate is laid

down, where he'll be

positioned, is scary

 

to him. You can feel it

from his auntie's

trembling hands

packing his goodies

 

It is scary to him

 

 

 

Thank you very much!

 

Lake

Edited by Lake
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I was glad to see the longer version in the comment file, which helped to put the poem more in perspective. There is undoubted sympathy for the youth of the boy, but as a professional volunteer soldier (a non-draftee, as in the Vietnam War days) he surely must have expected deployment to some hotspot in the world where the US government is proceeding with its Global War on Terror --- otherwise inelegantly known as GWOT. Anyone who has joined the US military since 2001 knows that he (and sometimes she) is going to get sent somewhere to shoot at people and get shot at or blown up in return. The poignant bit is that apart from friends and family at home nobody really gives a shit what happens to these boys (and girls), and I'm not only talking about the world at large, but the USA itself. It's time to search the unvisited dusty shelves and pull down Kipling's "Soldiers Tales" ... especially his paean to the private soldier, Tommy Atkins, which reads as fresh and as pertinently today as it did when it was written more than a hundred years ago. But the New World is not big on military history; it has even forgotten Vietnam, a disaster scarcely a generation old ....

 

TOMMY by Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

 

I went into a public-'ouse to get a pint o' beer,

The publican 'e up an' sez, "We serve no red-coats here."

The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,

I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:

O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away";

But it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play,

The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,

O it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play.

 

I went into a theatre as sober as could be,

They gave a drunk civilian room, but 'adn't none for me;

They sent me to the gallery or round the music-'alls,

But when it comes to fightin', Lord! they'll shove me in the stalls!

For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, wait outside";

But it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide,

The troopship's on the tide, my boys, the troopship's on the tide,

O it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide.

 

Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep

Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap;

An' hustlin' drunken soldiers when they're goin' large a bit

Is five times better business than paradin' in full kit.

Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, 'ow's yer soul?"

But it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll,

The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,

O it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll.

 

We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too,

But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;

An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints,

Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints;

While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, fall be'ind",

But it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind,

There's trouble in the wind, my boys, there's trouble in the wind,

O it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind.

 

You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all:

We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.

Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face

The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.

For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"

But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot;

An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;

An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool -- you bet that Tommy sees!

Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim

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Heya Dedalus,

 

Thank you for the insightful response. We all know obeying the order is a soldier's bounden duty, just like a doctor who is obligatory to save a person's life even an enemy's life. You made good points about attention given to these guys, not only during a war but also after a war. Yes, as you said

 

The poignant bit is that apart from friends and family at home nobody really gives a shit what happens to these boys (and girls),

 

It is not until I talked with a lady, whose nephew is sent to Afganistan again after he returned from Iraq, do I realize that if people really pay attention to and care these young people, me included.

 

Many years ago I saw a film, it was about an Vietnam veteran who returned from Vietnam but was treated as a wanderer, no place to go, no job to do.

 

Thank you for posting Kipling's poem for me to read.

 

which reads as fresh and as pertinently today as it did when it was written more than a hundred years ago.

 

Indeed. I need to delve more into this subject and rewrite my poem. War and political poems are touchy, sensitive, it takes the guts to write, at least for me. Here's another one written by William Marr.

 

 

 

Vietnam War Memorial

A block of marble

and twenty six letters of the alphabet

present so many young names

to history

 

Wandering alone

an old woman has at last found her only child

amid the mass grave

and with her eyes tightly shut

she feels for the mortal wound

with her trembling fingers

on his ice-cold forehead

 

 

 

Thank you, dedalus for sharing your thughts.

 

Lake

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This is a short but very effective poem, Lake. Its brevity gives it its impact, and it's reminiscent of another short war poem by Randall Jarrell:

 

The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner*

From my mother's sleep I fell into the State,

And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.

Six miles from earth, loosed from the dream of life,

I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.

When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.

 

 

As in Jarrell's poem, your poem's strength lies in the fact that it leaves out the politics and just shows the carnage. We can all make up our minds as to the meaning or meaninglessness of "Afghanistan," but one thing's for sure: there will be human wreckage in any deployment.

 

... There is undoubted sympathy for the youth of the boy, but as a professional volunteer soldier (a non-draftee, as in the Vietnam War days) he surely must have expected deployment to some hotspot in the world where the US government is proceeding with its Global War on Terror ... Anyone who has joined the US military since 2001 knows that he (and sometimes she) is going to get sent somewhere to shoot at people and get shot at or blown up in return. The poignant bit is that apart from friends and family at home nobody really gives a shit what happens to these boys (and girls), and I'm not only talking about the world at large, but the USA itself.

One does wonder what would prompt anyone to join the ranks of the enlisted in a volunteer military, especially today. The lure of "college money" or even the prospect of being rewarded with a career in which one gets to wear jackboots at home upon return seems hardly sufficient. Granted, there's plenty of subversion and propaganda coming from the government, but an enlistee would have to be pretty deluded to not realize that he is likely to be deployed to invade another country and kill or be killed. As the old saying goes, "He who lives by the sword dies by the sword."

 

As an American, I would like to point out that there are many Americans who oppose the Anglo-American acts of aggression being perpetrated around the world under the guise of a ridiculous "War on Terror." Terrorism is, after all, a tactic. It's not an enemy, and one cannot wage war on it.

 

I, myself, find it difficult to be very sympathetic. Support the troops? What does that mean? I can only "support the troops" by saying, "Bring them home!" I have always been outspoken against their "mission," that is, against their current unjust cause(s). Their plight is both tragic and a shame.

 

We all know obeying the order is a soldier's bounden duty ...

While the American soldier might be obligated to follow all lawful orders, he is certainly not obligated to follow, and has a moral duty to resist, all unlawful orders. For example, if American troops were ordered to fire upon the American people, it would be their duty to arrest any officers giving such commands and to deliver them for prosecution and, hopefully, execution. The American military is subservient to the civilian authority; it does not exist of it's own volition. Those civilians acting in the name of America's government who would use America's military to further unjust causes must be held accountable by the American people for their warmongering abroad and, in a case of waging war against the American people, for treason. There are many who agree with this, many who would agree if they weren't asleep, and many who don't care. And not caring is a real shame.

 

Tony

 

 

*BALL TURRET; PICS

Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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to a young gunner

 

deployed to Afghanistan

 

the golden triangle

where his mate is laid down

 

he watches

auntie's trembling hands

pack goodies for him

 

Short and powerful poem, Lake. This is a truly provocative and sensitive subject because of its realistic nature.

I second what Brendan and Tony have said in general.

 

Great poem, Lake.

 

Aleksandra

The poet is a liar who always speaks the truth - Jean Cocteau

History of Macedonia

 

 

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Thank you, Alek for the read and comment. Yes, realistic stuff is hard to tackle.

 

Tony, thanks for the thoughtful response. Actually, I was not sure what idea I had in mind when this poem was written. I guess I'd love to address the point made by Dedalus re poignancy and negligence, and your point of a moral dilemma - peacemaker and warmaker. Being unable to accomplish that, I just cut it short and leave it to readers to ponder...

 

Lake

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Lake,

 

A wonderful and direct piece- astonishing in its clarity and feel--- I really need to spend more time engaging in the thoughtful and wise discussions that are being generated here- But alas as one can see from my less than usual flood of poems- These days I don't have the presence of mind to fully engage in the erudite discourse represented here-much to my chagrin-

 

But am honored and pleased to see what your poem and many others have inspired!

 

Many Thanks!

 

DC

Gate(less.thumb.png.dc23b19d2478d37a9f6fcdc563973026.pnghttps://conjurd.substack.com/welcome Come on over and check out my poetry substack y'all;-)

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