War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele

war poet out of Wainwrightistan

just a quick note, with much much more to follow…

this morning was magically lifted out of the FOB I’ve lived in this past week and transported back to “KAF”. a short “hi, how are you,” with a Padre friend in the mess, and gossip with a MCpl pal, contact with my Capt., then my pack, sleeping bag, army cot etc. thrown into the back of a van and transported back by a Vingt Deux into the “no duff” world.

I could write about what I’ve experienced this last week in Exercise Maple Guardian for years. having spent the past year observing the rifle company, the battalion, and the battle group as they muster and prepare for war, seeing Maple Guardian, with its full Task Force, and its replication of situations from theatre, has brought my understanding of the soldier’s life to a whole new level…

this morning on my way into “KAF”, I travelled with the OC, a brilliant young Major (think CEO), and his Sgt. Major (think right-hand man, think COO). Sgt. Major admitted to me that at first he was wary of me, maybe uncomfortable having a civvie with the rifle company. he told me that he’d grown used to me over the time I was with them (I took this as a compliment), then said he didn’t have much time for people who sit around and don’t do anything.

“like poets?” I asked him.

he turned to me and half-smiled then said, “sorry, but well, yes”

I thanked him for his honesty and said I didn’t blame him. “we’re freaks to most civvies too” I half-joked. then said that it must seem weird for him to see me sitting around the Command Post, in LAVs, in the mess, on the cooks’ line, on sentry etc. etc. taking notes (not technical details but rather, little details such as the flapping of the tent, the blood-type recorded on mens’ desert boots in felt pen, the smell of diesel, the tiny yellow flower poking through the plywood floors, the brightness of razor wire against a prairie sky…)

I explained to him that I take notes and photos, spend hundreds of hours with the soldiers getting to know them, what they do, how they feel about things, then go home and think and think and think and maybe put it aside until something rather “voodoo” happens and I’ll get an image, remember something I heard or saw or smelled, and a piece will fall into place.

I asked Sgt. Major if he could tell me the one piece of war art that every man, woman and child in Canada (and elsewhere) knows. he was silent. when I said, “In Flanders Fields, not a painting, but a poem” he looked at me, smiled. suddenly he got what I was about. and told him that while I have no illusions that I could ever write another Flanders Fields, that I hoped some of my work would be worthwhile.

“why didn’t you explain this to me before?” Sgt. Major said.

“you never asked, Sgt. Major,” I replied, then shook his hand, said farewell until either Edmonton or Afghanistan, thanked the Major and Sgt. Major for making me so welcome, treating me so well, hopped onto CQ’s quad (“you’re in Delta Country now”) with all my gear, and headed into the centre of “KAF” to find Capt. and my ride out of Wainwrightistan back into the “no duff” world.

3 Comments (Closed)

Douglas Hill

Out of the crucible drops a bright, freshly forged concept.

A significant moment.

Jun 08 2009 · 18:06


Sgt Major asks ‘What is a poet’?
Imagine! I thought he would know it. ‘Brave’, ‘bloody’ or ‘absurd’,
for the worth of the word,
the poet’s the person to show it.

Jun 09 2009 · 13:51

Alex VanderWoude

If you’re not careful, you’ll have the entire CF thinking of you as their mom…

Jun 10 2009 · 12:03

About This Page

The page you're reading contains a single diary entry entitled war poet out of Wainwrightistan. It was posted here on June 08, 2009.


Complete diary archive