Soldier Poet Blogs Before Overseas Deployment

I am a soldier on active duty with the Canadian Forces who just happens to be a published poet. Most of the troops I serve with don’t know that I even write. In this blog, I aim to post irregular updates on my progress towards getting my current poetry published, raising a family, and deploying overseas in a combat role. I welcome your input/replies.

I use the name/avatar/nom de plume soldierpoet‘ as a means to provide me with some creative freedom IOT (that’s military speakism for ‘in order to’) write what I want in my poetry without having to worry about it affecting my career, not that I am overly concerned it would. I just haven’t figured out how to consolidate the two. Since I am starting out with this process, the answer to how I am going to both be a solider and a poet will probably just resolve itself. I’m lucky though that our military is a good one and I shouldn’t have to worry about getting ‘in trouble’. It probably just has more to do with the fact that I wonder how a poet would be regarded by the troops I lead.

Below are three poems that give an idea of my direction, style, and poetic voice. MTF (more to follow).

graduation

Graduation

NO ONE ATTEMPTED

I am a gray tree,

I have to start somewhere.

An estuary, or the place

where the whole choir stood,

or the the thunder knocking about,

a funny conversation

bled onto bandages

or written as comfort

under the sound of the rain,

the sun hidden behind blouses

a fist above the horizon.


Today is not unlike the others.

I’ve watched hundreds

of half-finished, half-thought-out days

go down over the thirsty drain.

In vain I tried to pick the lock

of the iron gate. I’ve wielded my pen

like a welder’s stick melting down

the impeccable into pre-storm darkness.

I’ve sucked blood out of poems

mistaking it for poison.

I’ve run down dead-end streets

that ended long after street stopped.

I trusted the intensity of the work

to do the longing

like pedaling leaves

knotted to trees.

I look at the leaves

to read in a broad way

any the divination that remains.


As the week before,

so much is lost already,

the violent street or stolen

from a man without a face,

or taken from a mouth

deciphering wisdom

to pure nonsense,

or nestled amid wild

grapes vines twisting

to the top of trees.

Writing poetry is walking

through an orchard

with a basket hoping

something will fall into it.

Thinking of you helps.

Keeps the words from arguing,

teeth gnashing at the throat.

It’s not that thinking of you

means I can sit down

and write 40 poems,

as simply as coughing.

You’ve always helped me

crumble the chip off my shoulder.

I go back or forward

and wonder what my face

looks like to you.


In time the longing

clogs the plain nothingness.

There are the mountains,

the wringing rivers, autumn ridges,

red maples, the leaves

of the poplars flashing,

apple trees swollen with sores,

desecrated woodlands

and abandoned farmlands,

the dried up harrowed

hallowed fields,

the wrinkled rim of the miracle.

I’ve tried to allow

the free mixing of colours.

Listened to what could be made.

I am the wind, the dry earth.

My blood. These words.

Fingers outstretched.

Brazen. Foolish.


DORCHESTER SQUARE

I was to sew up some poems

but I have no thread, so instead

I’m hammering a rusty beer

killing time until it tries to do me.

I am heading back to the military base

where I am practicing to kill

things other than just time.

At home, my children are asking

where I have I gone?

Was there for the weekend,

whittled down into one day.

First time in months.

We all go where we have to go.

I told them I was doing this for them,

my wife and my three daughters.

Smiles were broken sunlight.

Lift up that head of yours,

hold your head high.

Do not weep.


My sudden appearance

and disappearance,

the screech of drama,

my children’s innocence,

my wife searching the remains of her life,

all those things I’ve forgotten to say

buried under the ground.

Why didn’t my love for them

keep us together, gathered around the table?

Last night I did not say good-bye

and we all went to sleep

like it was any other night.

At 4:00am I left.


I hope to make it home again soon.

I am not sure when that will be.

During the flight, I held their heads

in my heart. My three little girls.

Small pools of perfect water.

My wildflower wife.

Tears are the thread with which

I snitch this poem.

Good bye.


I have to go now to catch the bus

and pass through the next door

where I will clean my snarling rifle,

shine my boots, wash my rotting clothes
from the previous weeks training,

whatever the public needs me to do,

so they can be more kind.

When I am deployed overseas,

my children have already saved my life.

I could do better with saving theirs.

We all go where we have to go.

I will dream of swimming

through pools of water.

I will pick wildflowers up into my arms.

The last sip of beer is gone.

AFGHANISTAN

The soldier-teacher,

recently back from war,

gave our infantry class

his mud speech.

We are at war, he tells us,

and today is your last day

as civilians. We are shocked.

He is our medicine man,

our shaman, his fist

pumping in the air

as his magic grew.

His spell was nearing,

germinating in us.


Shot seven times,

he should have been left in hell,

but the Infantry dug him up

and brought him to the mad

broad desert to keep

us new recruits safe.

As he spoke,

the sacrifice of soldiers

stop giving us

a sickly feeling of slaughter,

wrong from the start.

It aroused feelings of the old sense:

pride, adventure. By the end

we would have sailed

on chopped seas

blissfully seasick for a chance

to prove our worth.


He spoke about hammering

the enemy, quarrying

the mud walls of compounds

to mine for weapons.

Tore buildings from their roots

like broken jaws to silence the enemy.

Built his own roads with artillery,

he pulled the rotten teeth

out of snarling villages

until they smiled like angels

at the daybreak’s meeting

of melting steel.

He tossed bridges

into rivers and built new ones

until the people who lived there

no longer recognized themselves,

out of place in the farmer’s garden.


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3 Responses

  1. widge says:

    Kellee, you may also be interested by a book I published a while back by Canadian artist Scott Waters (http://scottwaters.ca/) who is part of the Canadian Forces Artist Program http://cumuluspress.burningbillboard.org/theherobook.html

  2. I wonder how a poet would be regarded by the troops I lead.

  3. Morgan Murphy says:

    Soldierpoet,

    I was wondering if the three poems you have here as an example of your writing type are published. I’m thinking about using one in a speech competition, but the poems I use must be published. If you could get back to me on that, that’d be great.
    Much thanks!

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