Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Their Struggle Is Your Struggle (Poem)

Their Struggle Is Your Struggle

    for Ben S. Woodruff

Who is touched
      by more than a picture

can tell you blood stains
      dry and brown and flake,

the chest's splatter a slow-drip
      painting filling the camouflage

canvas where you signed
      your name. Over there, in the theatre

of operations for enduring
      freedom, you scrubbed your hands

with dust and sand, held a finger
      to the air to catch the direction

of the fire's flash just as the guy
      ahead mimed he wants to go home.

Later, you got a fleece John Wayne
      blanket for your hospital bed,

reworked your quilt of luck daily,
      chanting the novena to make

your way back and finally out
      of the One Percent club

whose purple-and-gold hearts
      explain blasts' effects better than tears

in Kevlar or a squeeze of the left
      hand now doing its double-duty.

The general who lost
      his son the day the boy mis-

stepped on a land mine wants
      to tell you their struggle

is your struggle but he speaks
      for only one of 5,500 families

while we, back here in America, are the millions
      who never will take a direct hit.

© 2011 Maureen E. Doallas

This poem is prompted by a photo (scroll down to sixth image) on the site of a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Ben S. Woodruff, a young man I know via Twitter who in 2004 joined the United States Army and, as he tells a part of his story here, spent only a month with his unit before deploying to Iraq for the first of two tours, one approximately a year long and the other "a strenuous 15 months". Ben now is working his way through college.

I conflated this poem with several details from a moving story that appeared in the March 2, 2011, edition of The Washington Post, in which Lt. General John F. Kelly, whose son was killed in Afghanistan, spoke of Americans' lack of awareness of the price of our wars overseas.

Note: Technically, Operation Iraqi Freedom ended August 31, 2010, with President Obama's declaration that "the American combat mission in Iraq has ended" (text is here). Effective September 1, 2010, the new name of operations of United States Forces in Iraq is "Operation New Dawn".

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I offer this poem for the One Shot Wednesday event at One Stop Poetry, which each week invites poets to share and read each other's work. Be sure to visit the site late Tuesday afternoon and every Wednesday for links to the many contributors' poems.


Jeanne Damoff said...

Maureen, you have such a gift. I often read your poetry in my reader, bask in its profound beauty, and move on without leaving a remark. Such is the pace of an overcrowded life. But I want you to know how much I appreciate your relationship with and respect for words. So much power in the hands of those who wield them well. You are a master.

Love to you,

Maureen said...

Thank you so much for your lovely and generous words, Jeanne.

Kathleen Overby said...

Nothing will do after what Jeanne said, except amen, and I concur. :)

S. Etole said...

"Yes" ... to all of the above.

Anonymous said...

i lack awareness of a lot of things.

Louise Gallagher said...

Yes to what everyone said. Including nance marie.

It is one of the many, many things I so admire about you Maureen -- along with your gift with words, you have a deeply caring and loving heart.

Thank you.

Brian Miller said...

ah...your heart shines through in this write....

Ted said...

It is difficult to write a poem or any piece for that matter that celebrates the warrior but not the cause. Wilfred Owen was able to do it and you have done so here. It is like hanging a portrait of Lincoln and Lee on the same wall.

dustus said...

I'm impressed by the combination of visual and tactile lines you use throughout. There also seems an impassioned urgency in the speaker's voice, which is very moving.

Benjamin Woodruff said...

Great job, Maureen. I really like the perspective that you portray here. A lot of these elements are common for many service members, past and current, I'm sure. It's really hard to say to someone, "You don't know how it is," without sounding stuck up—even over something like war. We all wage wars in our lives. The real statement is what we consider to be victory and how we deal with the losses.

Inspiration is a beautiful thing, and I'm glad you found some and created something beautiful in turn. Cheers!

JL Dodge said...

I'm new to your site via OSP, so glad I came to read your poem, it is wonderful !

Marshy said...

this is yet another great, tight poem maureen and thanks for the commentary regarding its inspiration..pete

Sheila said...

touching poetry here. I like how you used concrete examples of the blanket and the left hand doing double duty - they really highlight the physical aspects of day to day living that many of us (myself included) take for granted.

Padmavani said...

Again Maureen, you took me through a slide show of war and its casualities! So beautifully said.
Thank you.

Kavita said...

Sad.. but true..
While people live through the worst of nightmares and tell their stories, here we are, sitting in our cozy living rooms, sympathizing for them.. and yet even more helpless than ever! (sigh)
A very powerful read, Maureen!

Claudia said...

this was fantastic maureen!! made my stomach hurt...esp. at the fleece john wayne blanket for the hospital bed

Luke Prater said...

excellent stuff, Maureen. Particularly like the way you've offset your couplets to ruffle the reader just a little as they work their way down to suit the theme/tone. Great piece, enjoy your work

Warmest Salad


Shashidhar Sharma said...

Dear Maureen

I could relate to this so much... and I know how hard really it is to say what you are trying to paint with your words... as the reality is more and more harsh... but you have done a great justice to the same... thanks for the information below.. too.

ॐ नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya
At Twitter @VerseEveryDay