War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele


three months ago he counted hours/days. until the Hercy-bird, the fat green plane. would take him first to the staging base. then to the place for getting drunk. then home to Canada. he couldn’t wait. to see his folks. to see his woman. again.

surreal. frosty light of the 0300 hrs hangar. the Artillery band plays every annoying marching tune they know. no Flowers of the Field for this homecoming. his sister, his mother, his father, his brother, his beloved’s tears. he stares at them, thinks, “WTF I was just doing my job”, fakes a smile anyway. their arms feel like straight jackets around him. can’t feel the heat. relief is too big for him.

(it takes time for glacier melt. sometimes climate change. drip, drip, drip. a hell of a lot of heat. shift. they don’t call slowness glacial for nothing. cliches have their purpose. their truths.)

first days of leave. too much silence. too many questions. too much noise. too much everything. absence of dust. absence of suffering. everybody wants a piece of him. other side of the coin from where he’s just been where everyone wanted a different piece. and he’s been at war since he barely turned 19. eight years in. still this middle place, transition, is groundless.

drink to think. the first two weeks. until beloved says, “enough or I’m out of here”
he sobers up (sort of). takes a road trip. goes to see the brothers. goes anywhere. his shoulders, his step, his gaze, patrol. he still reaches for his weapon. always always says, “I’m good to go” when asked how he is. (but I know he isn’t. can’t be. impossible.)

a couple weeks leave. he sees ease in life for some. not everything, not everyone is struggle. still he misses chai, he misses Pashto, he misses the sound of metal. he misses the spike of adrenaline.

his woman grates. too many questions. too many demands. too many plans. too much future. (how can he possibly understand what it means to keep the midnight watch all winter long. twitching the curtain every time a car pulls up in front of the house. not wanting to answer the midnight phone). “I’m done. I’m out of here. we’re finished” he tells her. running is safe. he’s good at it. with or without 30 kilos of kit.

for everyone patience is poured down the drain like bad seven and rye.

he writes, I’m submitting a memo. want to go back. want to go anywhere. but here.

I write, take a chill. refind ground. refind heat. remember the ones who didn’t make it home. or the ones who didn’t make it home whole in body.

but soldier’s soul is a hungry ghost. it cannot hear. anything. cannot see anything. but what’s over that hill. behind that mud wall. inside that grape hut. it can only feel. or not feel. world weariness. struggle. it just can’t stop. take it all in. breathe.

1 Comment (Closed)

Alex VanderWoude

There have to be soldiers who are happy to put all that behind them, and replace it with the placid routine of civilian life. Do you have to be in it for three decades or whatever before the adrenalin thrill becomes boring? Perhaps for some it is the number of comrades lost — a tipping point is reached, and they are then ready to put the gear down and grow roses. And of course there must be some who can’t wait to be quit of the whole thing, the sooner the better. But I guess you’re talking about the ones who cannot let go, at least not yet.

Jul 26 2010 · 22:27

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The page you're reading contains a single diary entry entitled transition. It was posted here on July 23, 2010.


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