War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele

the christmas rounds (2)

how to smile, how to laugh, when we grieving step through the double-Dutch of Christmas rounds… and this December more deadly than the last, we hear another one gone, then another, and another… the curse of IEDs… a private, fresh-faced, I know him, a WO, a Sgt, I know them too, the backbone of experience, I’ve watched them light cigarettes, cradle rifles, receive/give orders, had them cover me with spare blankets, share rations, sleeping quarters, let them tie my helmet strap tight, kit me in frag vest, laughed with them, looked at the pictures of their babies, watched them lead from within…

and then the injured, over 360 in the last three years… and the stoney-drop, the quiet ones, of PTSD, its ripples felt for generations (my friend George never spoke of his flyer days, just got dead drunk in his little office off the house, for decades, before he dropped)… who knows the count of those suffering ones… I met the girlfriend of a two-time Afghan vet, age 26, can’t go out of the house, can’t hear a door slam, can’t still himself, two years out of his last tour… she tells me they’re about to split…

and P, an OSSIS contact, worries about me, 2nd hand PTSD, but I say, this is life, and what will be will be, my job to scribe, to witness, and what a gift that soldier takes me aside, shows me his rainbow box of pills, tells me about the kill that sent him on his way to the terrible land of no sleep, no peace… honours me with his truth

at a Boxing Day party, someone came to me to say, “I read about you. Tell me, what is it like? This soldier work?”

then she told me about growing up in East Germany and being afraid of uniforms and how it has been 20 years and a row of brass buttons still makes her shake… then she told me how she had taken a course at University and was amazed to be able to disagree with everybody and not get in trouble, not be thrown into jail, as she had when she was very young…

tell me more, I said to her, I need to know

but she just smiled, wished me well, walked away, left me to continue with this year’s Christmas rounds, left me to think about where I was going, and what I would come to know…

but it’s my duty to our lost beloveds, and those other ones we lose, even today, to keep on, to find it again, that light, that delight, that awe of end of day when the shale of clouds over the bay looks so goddamn gorgeous through the branches of my bare plum and mountain ash, and the flickers are tucked in, no longer cleaning the apples bare in the orchard next door, and there will be a knock soon at my own front door, not bearing the unbearable, as two houses have witnessed just today when the CO and Padre came to call, but with friendship and good wine and food and music (for we are musicians in this house too)… yes, this is how they wish us to be… our Christmas rounds continuing until Epiphany… yes, they wish all of this for us…


1 Comment (Closed)

Douglas Hill

PTSD slinks home after wars, sneaks into homes, streets
paints its subtle filter over backyards, neighbourhoods
crawls into graves, gardens, silences until we cannot see it
but we still inhale it, ignore it, choke on it, and wonder
what is that tiny bleeding at the back of our lives.

Dec 29 2008 · 10:32

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The page you're reading contains a single diary entry entitled the christmas rounds (2). It was posted here on December 28, 2008.

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