War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele

sometimes we question

sometimes we ask ourselves why we are doing this… will our work mean anything to anyone. will it carry truth. will it hold up against time. is it worth the personal, the financial sacrifice not only to ourselves but to our families, friends, communities. is it any good after all. who cares… etc. etc…

and sometimes someone will make a remark that stings. maybe even unknowlingly.

interesting how we tend to listen to the 1 in 100 stinging remarks and not the 99 of praise or thanks or understanding.

I might venture that this might be an artist’s self-indulgent perspective but maybe not. just today I spoke with a painter friend about our self-doubt. it goes with the territory we said to one another. she, just coming off a gallery opening of her amazing work that she painted after she walked the Camino de Santiago de Compostela last year. an opening in which she sold many paintings, had excellent reactions to her work. and I, with hundreds of positive letters, just having published a whack of my war work, just having done a reading and presentation at the Edmonton Poetry Festival, and just the other night spoke about being a “witness to war” AND was actually paid to do so (an extremely rare occasion for a poet).

and maybe it’s because I’m tired. physically. emotionally. just home from one Ex. and off to another in a few days. and transitions are incredibly difficult. and it’s hard sometimes to hide the excitement of leaving home for another adventure, and that carries its own fatigue too. and it’s challenging anticipating the needs of home, trying to make it easier on them without the cog that I play… and it’s difficult trying not to think too far ahead to theatre. staving any fears. not for myself, but for others…

and maybe all of this makes one a bit more sensitive.

so let me tell you, and thank all of you who have contacted me with your words of encouragement. they are the diesel that keeps me going. just when I feel like giving up.

and to be honest, these times aren’t frequent. maybe because I’m learning a few things from the infantry…

I remember after a day on the live fire ranges at Suffield, I took a walk over to D Coy’s leaguer to use a blue rocket (yes, D Coy had blue rockets… the rest of us had treeless prairie). I saw a young MCpl. I’d met on the Karl G range at Shilo last autumn. a vet from Afghanistan, he looked confident and knowing. he had the old man’s eyes of the vet. so two weeks ago, I saw him again with his crew. it was beginning to hail, the men were setting up tents in the prairie gusts, they were filthy, tired, bitching loudly and laughing. MCpl. waved, sent a big white smile at me from his charcoaled face. the guys all waved. smiled. I pulled out my camera and asked if I could take a snap, then asked, “how was your day?” “we knew when we woke up this morning [4 a.m.], that it was going to be a bad one,” MCpl said, “and we were right… it was shit the whole fucking day wasn’t it guys?” the crew lined up against their LAV while I took a shot of them. I looked at them, filthy, tired, frustrated, hungry, and they had the biggest shit-eating grins on their faces. they were having the time of their lives. it was then I realized that the worse things are for infantrymen, the more they have to suck it up, the happier they are…

and sometimes, I think I’m getting the hang of it… taking the knocks, “piece of piss, piece of piss, next time knock harder…”, but maybe that would be getting a little too cocky.

and after all, I know for a fact, I’ve seen it (though never in the field)

even infantrymen get down too…

(I’d love to publish the pic for you but I can’t. I always promise the guys that I’ll keep their names and faces private. so you just have to imagine, a wide early spring prairie, dark clouds, wind gusting, dust and hail and rain. imagine rolling in an ash pit. imagine being stuck in a tin can for 14 hours and being jostled and shaken and stirred. imagine not having had a shower for a week. and oh ya, go to bed now because you’re getting up in 4 hours to start a 48 hour long live fire and you’re not going to sleep and who knows how much fresh air you’ll get…well you get the picture… there they were 10 of the happiest faces I’d seen in a long time… just another shit day out on the live-fire range, another Suffield day, and they were loving every minute)


1 Comment (Closed)

Alex VanderWoude

Maybe they are happy because they are doing something really, really important. Or perhaps that’s just the icing on the cake of camaraderie. Have you ever asked them? Then again, perhaps you need to ask the Colonel — your typical 19-year-old may never have thought about it.

May 25 2009 · 15:39

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The page you're reading contains a single diary entry entitled sometimes we question. It was posted here on May 25, 2009.

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