Thursday, June 22, 2006

Poetry Thursday

If it is Thursday, it must be time for Poetry Thursday. This weeks' CATO (Completely And Totally Optional) prompt was to work with words you either love or hate.

I've been thinking a lot lately about the word (or phrase really) collateral damage. We hear this word a lot, used casually, even the title of a recent movie.
According to Iraq Body Count, their estimate for civilian deaths is somewhere between 38475 and 42889. The US government isn't very helpful in keeping track of this number, doesn't seem too important to us I guess. Yes, us, you and me if you are an American. We don't demand to see this number published alongside the number of our fallen soldiers (which now stands at an exact and horrible 2510). We don't want to think about it. But there it is. All those people dead, gone, forever and on our behalf. Killed for you and me, us in this war that we chose to wage. It happens everytime men go to war. This looking away from collateral damage, we know it is there, that it is an inevitable "cost of war", we don't really want to count it. But still we go to war anyways. Just because we can.

Here is the poem I wrote about it, kinda long and ranty, but there it is.

Collateral Damage
by Julie Zaccone Stiller

Of course fallen soldiers count
in our continuing calculations
of noble war dead.
Murdered reporters
receive attention
excessive in comparison
from their colleagues
as their surprising
number of dead increases.

Enemyinsurgentsterroristsfreedom-fightersarmedjihadistsenemycombatants
What are their true numbers
either alive or dead.
They (the other),
we do not
consider worthy of tabulation
into official permanent record-dom.
They are not
expected to be mourned over
by anyone
as they are all
b......a.......d
What self-respecting mother
would wail over
her dead terrorist son
we rationalize
thousands of miles away from the bloody dust.

Finally the number of heartbreak
This Number of Numbness
that ever present attendant to the god of war
The dead bystanders,
uninvolved,
yet still dead,
were living
in the wrong place
through no mal-intent
on their part.
Still dead
through no intent
on our part.

We shield ourselves
our tiny closed minds
protected from
this,
our endless folly
with a most hated
duo of words
Collateral Damage.

6 comments:

jim said...

Poetry does do so much good, and if for nothing else, it's where we can reclaim one honest place for language. So with words we hate, we can use them, show their falseness with just a little light.

No, it won't change what our leaders in the U.S. are doing, but it will at least add to the record that we don't accept their language. Thanks for sharing these hard words.

kristen said...

WOW. this is a powerful poem, julie. thank you for sharing it.

Karoda said...

wooo, Julie...these lines:
The dead bystanders,
uninvolved,
yet still dead,
were living
in the wrong place
through no mal-intent
on their part.
Still dead
through no intent
on our part

had to remind myself to breath. Everything about these times feel intense.

Deb R said...

Wow, that's amazing Julie. Raw and honest and true.

David Walsh said...

Death and intent -- two words that, when placed together, cause incredible pain and anguish. Nice juxtiposition...

AliceAnderson said...

I really enjoyed my visit to your blog, especially Poetry Thursday. We're having a blog tour at Blogs For Readers and we've selected your blog for our showcase today (July 6).