Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Please go to BagNewsNotes

Michael Shaw's outstanding blog, BagNewsNotes, is featuring the work of photojournalist Lori Grinker.

Michael writes:
In response to an inattentive domestic media and the lack of visual documentation, Lori Grinker has been pursuing the story of Iraqi civilians fleeing the war.

In April, and again in September 2007, she traveled to Amman to photograph Iraqis forced to leave their families, homes and livelihoods for a life of cramped, substandard living conditions, inactivity, and waiting for the time when it will be safe to return to Iraq, or hear that they have found sanctuary in another country. And those are the “lucky” ones. Many of her subjects are in Amman to repair their bodies, only to be to be repatriated to a war zone after they are “healed.”

In the case above, the young man (call him Amer) was burned in an explosion while walking past a fuel truck in Baghdad. We see the 16-year old coming out of the recovery room after having surgery to fix the contracted fingers on his right hand. He faced the same surgery on his left hand a couple of month later.

I encourage you to see Lori's work being featured at 'The Bag,' as well as at her own site.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

He Wrote His Own Obituary

I learned about the death of Army Major Andrew Olmsted today in a diary by taylormattd at Daily Kos. Olmsted posted as G'Kar at the blog, Obsidian Wings, contributed to the Rocky Mountain News blog, and for a time maintained his own blog.

I had not heard of him or his work until today.

Olmsted penned his own obituary of sorts, parting words left with a friend to post on his behalf in the event of his death.

Here's one of the things he wrote:
I do ask (not that I'm in a position to enforce this) that no one try to use my death to further their political purposes. I went to Iraq and did what I did for my reasons, not yours. My life isn't a chit to be used to bludgeon people to silence on either side. If you think the U.S. should stay in Iraq, don't drag me into it by claiming that somehow my death demands us staying in Iraq. If you think the U.S. ought to get out tomorrow, don't cite my name as an example of someone's life who was wasted by our mission in Iraq. I have my own opinions about what we should do about Iraq, but since I'm not around to expound on them I'd prefer others not try and use me as some kind of moral capital to support a position I probably didn't support. Further, this is tough enough on my family without their having to see my picture being used in some rally or my name being cited for some political purpose. You can fight political battles without hurting my family, and I'd prefer that you did so.

I honor Andrew Olmsted's request, because I believe that what he also wrote next is wholly consistent with the purpose of my own small and poorly-traveled blog:
...for those who knew me well enough to be saddened by my death, especially for those who haven't known anyone else lost to this war, perhaps my death can serve as a small reminder of the costs of war. Regardless of the merits of this war, or of any war, I think that many of us in America have forgotten that war means death and suffering in wholesale lots. A decision that for most of us in America was academic, whether or not to go to war in Iraq, had very real consequences for hundreds of thousands of people. Yet I was as guilty as anyone of minimizing those very real consequences in lieu of a cold discussion of theoretical merits of war and peace. Now I'm facing some very real consequences of that decision; who says life doesn't have a sense of humor?

But for those who knew me and feel this pain, I think it's a good thing to realize that this pain has been felt by thousands and thousands (probably millions, actually) of other people all over the world. That is part of the cost of war, any war, no matter how justified. If everyone who feels this pain keeps that in mind the next time we have to decide whether or not war is a good idea, perhaps it will help us to make a more informed decision. Because it is pretty clear that the average American would not have supported the Iraq War had they known the costs going in. I am far too cynical to believe that any future debate over war will be any less vitriolic or emotional, but perhaps a few more people will realize just what those costs can be the next time.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Iraq War Grief - Ave Maria

Franz Schubert's "Ave Maria" is one of the most familiar tunes in the classical and sacred music genres. It's also one of those pieces of music that is very easy to do badly - heavy on schmaltz and saccharine sentimentality.

The version that accompanies this YouTube compilation of photos in Iraq and elsewhere is performed by Arthur Grumiaux (violin) and Istvan Hajdu (piano), and appears on the Christmas compilation, The Ultimate Relaxation Christmas Album.

While I never would have chosen that album (my wife bought it upon the recommendation of her sister, who's a big Mantovani fan), I think this rendition of Ave Maria is just about the best I've ever heard. I offer it now as a holiday prayer and gift to you, in the Christian tradition. Dedicated to all who suffer because of war.

Ave Maria (Salutatio Angelica), is a traditional Catholic and Orthodox church prayer calling for the intercession of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Rooted mainly in Biblical texts, the Ave Maria developed in the Middle Ages; in this context, Mary is known as the Blessed Virgin. The prayer is also used by other denominations in the Catholic tradition, notably Anglo-Catholic members of the Anglican Communion. In the Eastern Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches, it is known as the "Angelic Salutation" as well as being called the Hail Mary.

Ave Maria by Schubert was originally titled “Ellens dritter Gesang” (Ellen's third song). The confusion over the title probably arose due to the opening verse of the song:

Ave Maria! Maiden mild!
Listen to a maiden's prayer!....

The words to Ave Maria song were taken from Sir Walter Scott's poem The Lady of the Lake and Adam Storck wrote the German translation Schubert used. The person responsible for setting the Ave Maria lyrics in Latin remains a mystery to this day.

Walter Scott's Original
from "The Lady of the Lake"

Ave Maria! maiden mild!
Listen to a maiden's prayer!
Thou canst hear though from the wild,
Thou canst save amid despair.
Safe may we sleep beneath thy care,
Though banish'd, outcast and reviled -
Maiden! hear a maiden's prayer;
Mother, hear a suppliant child!
Ave Maria!

Ave Maria! undefiled!
The flinty couch we now must share
Shall seem this down of eider piled,
If thy protection hover there.
The murky cavern's heavy air
Shall breathe of balm if thou hast smiled;
Then, Maiden! hear a maiden's prayer;
Mother, list a suppliant child!
Ave Maria!

Ave Maria! stainless styled!
Foul demons of the earth and air,
From this their wonted haunt exiled,
Shall flee before thy presence fair.
We bow us to our lot of care,
Beneath thy guidance reconciled;
Hear for a maid a maiden's prayer,
And for a father hear a child!
Ave Maria!


Note: When you open this page, a rendition of the Latin lyrics accomapanied by a new-age synthesizer automatically loads and plays. If that arrangement is not to your liking, you can either turn it off entirely with the small playback controls in the Flash player at the upper right of the page, or skip to the more traditional versions 2, 3, or 4 on the list below the controls.

I hope you'll also take some time to browse this music site, which offers a wonderful selection of sacred music from the Russian and Ukrainian choral traditions. I purchased the MP3 download version of the album - Praise and Worship Music by The Monk Choir of Kiev Pechersk Monastery

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Iraq War Grief - In the Valley of Elah

I have my good friend, Ilona, to thank, because she urged me to attend a late night movie screening at YearlyKos 2007.

I had attended plenty of conference-wide meetings, workshops, and social events by the time I found the small room where the screening was taking place, and the twenty or so people there had already seen several short films and trailers before I arrived. The soda bottles were mostly empty, and the few remaining pizza slices were cold, but I combined several sugared and diet brands into one large cupful, scooped up wedges of plain, roasted pepper, and barbecued chicken pizza – I'm not shy in matters of food – and took my seat.

One of the people involved in the movie's production spoke for a few minutes before loading a DVD into a Mac notebook connected to a projector. There were no opening credits or music, and the legend “Property of Warner Brothers Pictures” appeared across the bottom of the screen for the entire time.

The initial sound and picture quality were poor, and several folks worked to switch machines and reconfigure the various cables and connections for a much better presentation.

Ilona told me the movie was based on an event that appears in her PTSD timeline at ePluribus Media: the 2003 story of Army Specialist Richard Davis. Davis was stabbed to death, and his body burned, after he and several of his colleagues were kicked out of a strip club near Fort Benning, GA. The men had fought together in Iraq as members of the 3rd Infantry Division.

Davis' murder highlighted what critics called the Army's lack of attention to the severe psychiatric problems affecting some soldiers as a result of their combat experiences. Private Jacob Burgoyne, one of the men present when Davis was murdered, had been diagnosed with severe PTSD in Kuwait, and medical officials there had taken away his gun, put him on suicide watch, and said that he should be escorted directly to the base psychiatric unit upon his return to Fort Benning.

Instead, Burgoyne had a brief meeting with a counselor before being released. Davis was murdered four days later.

Here's one plot synopsis from a review by Boyd van Hoeij:

Tommy Lee Jones’s handsomely aged parchment over bones face perfectly fits the role of Hank Deerfield, a stern retired army veteran. Deerfield’s second son Mike has not reported back home even though his army unit returned to base from duty in Iraq, worrying Hank and his wife Joan (Susan Sarandon in a thankless role) to the point of Hank’s departure for some private investigating, convinced that the army and police are not up to the task. After finding little information at the army base itself, he turns to Emily Sanders (Charlize Theron, convincing) from the local police force close to the army base, who reluctantly helps him...

The story unfolds as a traditional murder mystery, with Jones' and Theron's characters doing the legwork.

I had two thoughts upon seeing the film.

One was in response to a device that the director used to convey the idea that we can ever fully see or understand what someone else has gone through, even when that person is as close as our own child, and even when the events are as shared as one soldier's war is known to another. We can, at best, only begin to glimpse small parts of another's experience; and even when we do, those glimpses are distorted by noise and obscured by our own distance and removal. Our understanding is always incomplete.

Jones' character learns about his son's Iraq experiences through a series of video fragments painstakingly recovered from the young man's damaged cell phone. The sounds and images are filled with static, and each fragment is like a single piece from a big puzzle – not very helpful by itself, and once obtained still needing to be linked with other pieces into a more understandable whole. Or not, when so many other pieces just never turn up.

That metaphor resonates with me. I've never been in the military, and though I've spent my professional life working in and near hospitals, I've so far avoided the remaining two places that I long ago vowed to steer clear of – prison, and war.

So the best I can ever hope to understand about the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and about what the men and women from all sides are suffering as a result, is incompletely, by looking for the available fragments, and assembling them as best I can, all the while knowing that I'll never see the whole puzzle.

My other thought was simpler: “Wingnuts are going to go crazy, even though most won't bother to see this film.”

Here are some samples from a review by a wingnut who apparently has seen it:

Paul Haggis has decided to tackle the quagmire that is the Middle-East. By now it’s been done to death on film by other liberal drumbeaters, but Haggis’s anti-war movie does the anti-Iraq salsa with a twist: it takes place on American soil.


(Haggis' message is simply)...we’re cranking out thousands of Jeffrey Dahmers by sending our boys over there. I’m not overstating here, that’s really the message of Haggis’s movie...


...by the time the movie’s half over, the mystery is already solved and the rest of the film’s running time is spent with Hank trying to come to grips with what’s happened till the movie’s political pontificating eventually boils over and overshadows everything until we’re left with a film that can only be described as un-American.

There, I said it. In the Valley of Elah isn’t just heavy-handed and preachy, it’s downright un-American. Not because it comes out pretty clearly against the Iraq war or because it paints American troops as sadistic monsters...In the Valley of Elah is un-American because it takes a patriot, in the form of Hank Deerfield, and shreds him.

By the end of the movie, our overly patriotic father-hero has abandoned whatever it is that he loved about America in the first place and it’s pretty clear that he hates just about everything his country stands for. More importantly, Haggis seems to think he’s pretty justified in doing it and I got the sense that we’re supposed to feel the same way too. If that’s not un-American then I don’t know what is. Lucky for Haggis, free speech covers even that, but that doesn’t mean we have to like it. He reduces America’s problems to a series of slanders and then hangs a flag upside down just to bully home the point.

The movie opens in limited cities this Friday, the 14th; and nationwide on September 21. I hope you'll see it, and put the pieces together for yourself.

Thanks for getting me to go to the screening, Ilona.

The official movie site
Review, stills, links, and more at Rotten Tomatoes

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness - Day 74

top An unidentified woman holds a young boy during the burial service for Army Sgt. Scott Lange Kirkpatrick, Thursday, Aug. 23, 2007, at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. Kirkpatrick, 26, of Reston, Va., was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga., and was killed during an ambush in Arab Jabour, Iraq, Saturday, Aug. 11, 2007.
(AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)

bottom U.S. Major General Sean Byrne (L) presents a flag to Martha Kirkpatrick (2nd R), the mother of U.S. Army Sgt Lange Kirkpatrick who died August 11, 2007 during an ambush in Iraq, during his burial ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, August 23, 2007. Alongside are Sgt Kirkpatrick's widow Christy (3rd R) and his father Edward Kirkpatrick (R).

- - -

Ars Poetica
by Archibald MacLeish

A poem should be palpable and mute

As a globed fruit,


As old medallions to the thumb,

Silent as the sleeve-worn stone

Of casement ledges where the moss has grown--

A poem should be wordless

As the flight of birds.


A poem should be motionless in time

As the moon climbs,

Leaving, as the moon releases

Twig by twig the night-entangled trees,

Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves,

Memory by memory the mind--

A poem should be motionless in time

As the moon climbs.


A poem should be equal to:

Not true.

For all the history of grief

An empty doorway and a maple leaf.

For love

The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea--

A poem should not mean

But be.

- - -

What has been bothering me this whole deployment is the brevity and formality in which the media handles the death of soldiers. It always goes, “PFC John Smith, Norman, Oklahoma, killed by enemy small arms fire in Baghdad. Assigned to 1/43 Engineers, Third Infantry Division.”

What a crock to read that in a paper. It would be wholly appropriate to dedicate a full color photo and a real biography in every paper in America. The anonymity of dead soldiers would evaporate and the public would be forced to look at the faces of the fallen. Would it set in progress change? Perhaps. It certainly would go to show that we’re out here every day, dying for an ideal long forgotten.

from the entry “Stupid Shit of The Deployment Awards!”
at the blog Army of Dude

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness - Day 73

Sgt. Bruce Harrington, from Buzzards Bay, Mass., comforts his wife Sheila Harrington following a deployment ceremony for the Rhode Island Army National Guard's 169th Military Police Company in Warren, R.I., Thursday, July 5, 2007. Harrington, on his first tour, will be training Iraqi police with the rest of the 169th M.P. Company. (AP Photo/Stew Milne)

Somebody to Hold
from the movie version of the musical Hair
lyrics/music/book by James Rado and Gerome Ragni

The saddest story ever told oh Lord,
Oh, where do I begin?
The saddest story ever told oh Lord, is what might have been.

I left you my dear, now I regret it,
The way in time my heart will come to forget it.
Well, I've got to have somebody to hold, oh Lord,
I've got to have somebody to hold.

Lost without you with no tears left to cry,
Oh, my darlin' child I'll simply pine away,
And I,
I will simply pine away and die.
I'll pine away and die.

The saddest story ever told oh Lord,
Oh, where do I begin?
The saddest story ever told oh Lord, is what might have been.

Down about my ears, the sky is falling,
And through all the tragedy can't you hear me calling.

Well, I've got to have somebody to hold oh Lord,
I've got to have somebody, got to be bold.
I'm cryin' out in the cold
We'll I've got to have somebody to hold,
I've got to have somebody to hold.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness - Day 72

Young Iraqi girl stands next to a bullet hole in the area where clashes erupted between the US military and the Mahdi Army militia, in the Shiite shrine city of Karbala, 27 July. Nine people were killed and several more were wounded during the clashes, security and hospital officials said.
(AFP/Mohammed Sawaf)

Easy to Be Hard
from the musical Hair
lyrics/music/book by James Rado and Gerome Ragni

How can people be so heartless
How can people be so cruel
Easy to be hard
Easy to be cold

How can people have no feelings
How can they ignore their friends
Easy to be proud
Easy to say no

And especially people
Who care about strangers
Who care about evil
And social injustice
Do you only
Care about the bleeding crowd?
How about a needing friend?
I need a friend

How can people be so heartless
You know I'm hung up on you
Easy to give in
Easy to help out

And especially people
Who care about strangers
Who say they care about social injustice
Do you only
Care about the bleeding crowd
How about a needing friend?
I need a friend

How can people have no feelings
How can they ignore their friends
Easy to be hard
Easy to be cold
Easy to be proud
Easy to say no

- - -

I've been listening to this music again after a long hiatus, prompted, in part, by the recent John Edwards campaign commercial. I was first given a vinyl LP of the original Broadway cast recording as a graduation gift in 1969 by a friend of my older sister's. It changed my life. I guess I'm just a good DFH ;^)

- - -

Update: Thanks to Diane W. at MyLeftWing for this YouTube.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness - Day 71

top photo Mohammed Ali, 17, waits to be transported to a burn center after a car bomb attack in the Karradah neighborhood in central Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, July 23, 2007. Three parked cars exploded in a predominantly Shiite area in Baghdad on Monday, killing at least 12 people and wounding 19, police said.
(AP Photo/Adil al-Khazali)

middle photo The casket of U.S. Army Pfc. Le Ron Wilson is carried into his funeral at Christ the King Church in New York July 17, 2007. Wilson, 18, from New York, died July 6, 2007, in Iraq of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle.
(Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

bottom photo This April 2007 handout photo provided by ATK Corporate Communications shows Lake City Army Ammunition Plant Vice President and General Manager Karen Davies. The plant produces nearly 1.4 billion bullets a year, a dizzying figure driven by war demands. Although no one knows when the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will end, the ammunition industry is preparing for a downturn in business, hoping to avoid a post-Cold War style drop-off that forced some to close doors.
(AP Photo/ATK Corporate Communications)

- - -

from the musical Hair

Ripped open by metal explosion
Caught in barbed wire
Bullet shock
Throbbing meat
Electronic data processing
Black uniforms
Bare feet, carbines
Mail-order rifles
Shoot the muscles
256 Viet Cong captured
256 Viet Cong captured

Prisoners in Niggertown
It's a dirty little war
Three Five Zero Zero
Take weapons up and begin to kill
Watch the long long armies drifting home

- - -

Friday, July 13, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness - Day 70

(top)Recent file photo of Reuters driver Saeed Chmagh who was killed with photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen in Baghdad on Thursday. The cause of the deaths was unclear, though first reports from the scene spoke of an explosion.
(Ceerwan Aziz/Reuters)

(bottom)Recent file photo of Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen, 23, who was killed along with driver Saeed Chmagh, 40, in Baghdad on July 12, 2007.
(Ceerwan Aziz/Reuters)

from Endymion
by John Keats

Book I (excerpt)

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o'er-darkened ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
'Gainst the hot season; the mid forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead;
All lovely tales that we have heard or read:
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven's brink.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness - Day 69

The mother of 20-year-old Mohammed Hasson cries over his body in the holy Shiite city of Najaf, Iraq, Wednesday, July 4, 2007. Mohammed was killed in a car bomb blast in the Baghdad's Shaab district Tuesday. (AP Photo/Alaa al-Marjani)

from A Dream Within a Dream
by Edgar Allan Poe

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand--
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep--while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness - Day 68

Jennifer Moretti, right, sister of U.S. Army Sgt. Trista Moretti, embraces a U.S. flag given to her at Sgt. Moretti's burial Tuesday, July 3, 2007, in Linden, N.J. At left is their mother, Judy Moretti. Sgt. Moretti was killed in an insurgent mortar attack June 25 in Nasir Lafitah, Iraq.
(AP Photo/George Olivar)

from Heart's Needle
by W. D. Snodgrass


Here in the scuffled dust
is our ground of play.
I lift you on your swing and must
shove you away,
see you return again,
drive you off again, then

stand quiet till you come.
You, though you climb
higher, farther from me, longer,
will fall back to me stronger.
Bad penny, pendulum,
you keep my constant time

to bob in blue July
where fat goldfinches fly
over the glittering, fecund
reach of our growing lands.
Once more now, this second,
I hold you in my hands.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness - Day 67

A four year old Iraq child cries as older boys stage a mock execution in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, July 2, 2007. Children's games are under a heavy influence of ongoing violence in the country, one of the more popular ones being a clash between militias and police.
(AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

Happy Ending for the Lost Children
by Charles Martin

One of their picture books would no doubt show
The two lost children wandering in a maze
Of anthropomorphic tree limbs: the familiar crow

Swoops down upon the trail they leave of corn,
Tolerant of the error of their ways.
Hand in hand they stumble onto the story,

Brighteyed with beginnings of fever, scared
Half to death, yet never for a moment
Doubting the outcome that had been prepared

Long in advance: Girl saves brother from oven,
Appalling witch dies in appropriate torment;
Her hoarded treasure buys them their parents' love.

* * *
"As happy an ending as any fable
Can provide," squawks the crow, who had expected more:
Delicate morsels from the witch's table.

It's an old story—in the modern version
The random children fall to random terror.
You see it nightly on the television:

Cameras focus on the lopeared bear
Beside the plastic ukulele, shattered
In a fit of rage—the lost children are

Found in the first place we now think to look:
Under the fallen leaves, under the scattered
Pages of a lost children's picture book.

* * *
But if we leave terror waiting in the rain
For the wrong bus, or if we have terror find,
At the very last moment the right train,

Only to get off at the wrong station—
If we for once imagine a happy ending,
Which is, as always, a continuation,

It's because the happy ending's a necessity,
It isn't just a sentimental ploy"
Without the happy ending there would be

No one to tell the story to but the witch,
And the story is clearly meant for the girl and boy
Just now about to step into her kitchen

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness - Day 66

I haven't posted anything in a long time and decided that, rather than go ahead with a long and tortured explanation of why it's been so these last several weeks, I'd put this up instead, and try to get back on track.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness - Day 65

An Iraqi Christian woman holds her rosary during prayers, in 2005. A Chaldaean Catholic priest and three of his assistants were shot dead on Sunday outside a church in northern Iraq, the local police commander said.
(AFP/File/Sabah Arar)

God lay dead in heaven
by Stephen Crane

God lay dead in heaven;
Angels sang the hymn of the end;
Purple winds went moaning,
Their wings drip-dripping
With blood
That fell upon the earth.
It, groaning thing,
Turned black and sank.
Then from the far caverns
Of dead sins
Came monsters, livid with desire.
They fought,
Wrangled over the world,
A morsel.
But of all sadness this was sad —
A woman's arms tried to shield
The head of a sleeping man
From the jaws of the final beast.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness - Day 64

A photo of and boots representing Private Sean Silva sit among more than 3,400 pairs of combat boots, one pair for every U.S. soldier killed in the Iraq War, displayed as part of "Eyes Wide Open: An Exhibition on the Human Cost of the Iraq War" in Chicago, May 25, 2007. The traveling exhibition will remain in Chicago until May 28. REUTERS/John Gress (UNITED STATES)

A special dedication today to all in Congress who voted to continue unconditional funding for the occupation of Iraq.

I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag
words and music by Joe McDonald
(with minor lyric changes by RubDMC)

Come on all of you big strong men,
Uncle Sam needs your help again.
He's got himself in a terrible jam
Way down yonder in Iraqnam
So put down your books and pick up a gun,
We're gonna have a whole lotta fun.

And it's one, two, three,
What are we fighting for?
Don't ask me, I don't give a damn,
Next stop is Iraqnam;
And it's five, six, seven,
Open up the pearly gates,
Well there ain't no time to wonder why,
Whoopee! we're all gonna die.

Come on generals, let's move fast;
Your big chance has come at last.
Gotta go kill ‘em in their beds —
‘Cuz the only good Iraqi is the one that's dead
You know that peace can only be won
When we've blown 'em all to kingdom come.


Come on Halliburton, don't move slow,
Why man, this is war au-go-go.
There's plenty good money to be made
Supplying the Army with the tools of the trade,
Just hope and pray that if they drop the bomb,
They drop it all on Iraqnam.


Come on mothers throughout the land,
Pack your boys off to Iraqnam.
Come on fathers, don't hesitate,
Send your daughters off before it's too late.
You can be the first one on your block
To have your kids come home in a box.


Monday, May 28, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness - Day 63

image from iCasualties.org

And they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
And their spears into pruning forks;
Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
Neither shall they learn war any more.

Isaiah 2:4

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness - Day 62

Gnarls Barkley

I remember when, I remember, I remember when I lost my mind
There was something so pleasant about that place.
Even your emotions had an echo
And so much space
And when you're out there
Without care,

Yeah, I was out of touch
But it wasn't because I didn't know enough
I just knew too much

Does that make me crazy?
Does that make me crazy?
Does that make me crazy?

And I hope that you are having the time of your life
But think twice, that's my only advice

Come on now, who do you, who do you, who do you, who do you think you are,
Ha ha ha bless your soul
You really think you're in control

Well, I think you're crazy
I think you're crazy
I think you're crazy
Just like me

My heroes had the heart to lose their lives out on a limb
And all I remember is thinking, I wanna be like them
Ever since I was little, ever since I was little it looked like fun
And it's no coincidence I've come
And I can die when I'm done

But Maybe I'm crazy
Maybe you're crazy
Maybe we're crazy

- - -

a personal note: I’ve hardly posted any of these diaries in the past several weeks. I’ll explain more about why in a while, when I figure that out for myself. In the meantime, this song has had a strong hold on me.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness - Day 61

a personal note: I haven't posted in two weeks. I'll explain more in a later post.
Thanks, RubDMC

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness Day 60

top photo

Relatives of Samir Sabah Michael, an Iraqi Christian killed in yesterday's road side bomb blast, cry over his body in Kirkuk, Iraq, Friday, April 13, 2007. Samir's was supposed to get married Friday.

(AP Photo/Emad Matti)

bottom photo

During a steady rain, Colin Kennedy, youngest brother of Army Sgt. Adam Kennedy, kisses Adam goodby after everyone else left the grave site in Norfolk, Mass., Tuesday, April 17, 2007. Kennedy, 25, was killed on Sunday, April 8, 2007, by the blast from an improvised explosive device south of Baghdad, Iraq.
(AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

J. S. Bach: F# Minor Toccata
by Bill Holm

This music weeps, not for sin
but rather for the black fact
that we must all die, but not one
of us knows what comes after.
This music leaps from key to key
as if it had no clear place to arrive,
making up its life, one bar at a time.
But when you come at last to the real theme,
strict, inexorable, and bleak,
you must play it slow and sad,
with melancholy dignity, or you miss
all its grim wisdom.
In three pages, it says, the universe collapses,
and you--still only halfway home.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Grief Daily Witness Day 59

Injured occupants are carried out of Norris Hall at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., Monday, April 16, 2007. A gunman opened fire in a dorm and classroom on the campus, killing at least 30 people in the deadliest shooting rampage in U.S. history. The gunman is killed but it's unclear if he was shot by police or took his own life.
(AP Photo/The Roanoke Times, Alan Kim)

Ghost Notes (an excerpt)
by Ralph Burns

for Danny Fletcher

I. Call and Response


It's beauty people fear, bright

rose riding on Aunt Billie's forehead,

the way light makes green everything

after her pickled okra, stubble

in the hands of day labor, callouses

of a parade of things and

touching them without seeing

or hearing without knowledge,

dumbstruck by a brooding need to define

or look without a place

to grieve, beauty and not faith

in truth in the light of justice --

just reach and nothing's there

but what's there already.

- - -

April is National Poetry Month

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness Day 58

The mother, widow, and father of U.S. Army soldier Jason Nunez watch from a distance under a tree as the soldier's coffin is lowered into a grave, about a week after he was killed in a bomb attack in Iraq, at the military cemetery in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, April 4, 2007. Their names are, left to right, Marlene Fernandez, Nitza Damaris Martnez, and Samuel Nuez.
(AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

I am the People, the Mob
by Carl Sandburg

I am the people--the mob--the crowd--the mass.
Do you know that all the great work of the world is done through me?
I am the workingman, the inventor, the maker of the world's food and
I am the audience that witnesses history. The Napoleons come from me
and the
Lincolns. They die. And then I send forth more Napoleons
I am the seed ground. I am a prairie that will stand for much plowing.
Terrible storms pass over me. I forget. The best of me is sucked out
and wasted. I forget. Everything but Death comes to me and makes
me work and give up what I have. And I forget.
Sometimes I growl, shake myself and spatter a few red drops for history
to remember. Then--I forget.
When I, the People, learn to remember, when I, the People, use the
lessons of yesterday and no longer forget who robbed me last year,
who played me for a fool--then there will be no speaker in all the
world say the name: "The People," with any fleck of a sneer in his
voice or any far-off smile of derision.
The mob--the crowd--the mass--will arrive then.

- - -

April is National Poetry Month

Friday, April 13, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness Day 57

Girls look through a fence at a refugee camp in Mosul April 5, 2007. About 250 families moved from Tal Afar town to camps in Mosul since last weeks' violence attacks.
REUTERS/Khaled al-Mousuly (IRAQ)

words/music by Kent Lambert (aka Roommate)

The war will start on Monday
we will go to work
we will read the headlines
we will go get coffee.

The war will start on Monday
we will talk to God
or maybe not
we will go get lunch.

Maybe we'll eat pasta
maybe we'll eat pork
maybe we'll eat tofu
maybe we'll eat crow
maybe we'll eat crow.

The war will start on Monday
we will watch the clock
we'll go to the protest
or maybe not
or maybe not.

The war will start on Monday
we will watch TV
we will change the channels
we will go to sleep
and in our dreams we'll drop the bombs and stop the bleeding
in our dreams we'll write the songs that start the healing
in our dreams we'll find another way
and the war will end on Tuesday.

- - -

Roommate’s website
(including mp3 of the featured song)

- - -

April is National Poetry Month

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness Day 56

A boy cries in a newly opened orphanage in the Shiite enclave of Sadr City In Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, April 2, 2007. The orphanage houses 33 Iraqi children who lost their parents during the four year of conflict in Iraq.
(AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

Fishing in Winter
by Ralph Burns

A man staring at a small lake sees
His father cast light line out over
The willows. He's forgotten his
Father has been dead for two years
And the lake is where a blue fog
Rolls, and the sky could be, if it
Were black or blue or white,
The backdrop of all attention.

He wades out to join the father,
Following where the good strikes
Seem to lead. It's cold. The shape
Breath takes on a cold day is like
Anything else--a rise on a small lake,
The Oklahoma hills, blue scrub—
A shape already inside a shape,
Two songs, two breaths on the water.

- - -

April is National Poetry Month

Friday, April 6, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness Day 55

An Iraqi man is questioned by U.S. Army soldiers after they found an illegal ammunition magazine in his house in Baghdad April 4, 2007.

The Death Poem
by Jumah al-Dossari

Take my blood.

Take my death shroud and

The remnants of my body.

Take photographs of my corpse at the grave, lonely.

Send them to the world,

To the judges and

To the people of conscience,

Send them to the principled men and the fair-minded.

And let them bear the guilty burden, before the world,

Of this innocent soul.

Let them bear the burden, before their children and before history,

Of this wasted, sinless soul,

Of this soul which has suffered at the hands of the "protectors of peace."

- - -

Thanks to Rippen Kitten for a diary at Daily Kos about the poetry written by several prisoners being held without charge at Guantanamo.

- - -

April is National Poetry Month

- - -

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness Day 54

Allana Swiger, widow of Army Sgt. Jason Swiger, watches as the casket is loaded into a hearse following the funeral, Wednesday, April 4, 2007, in Portland, Maine. Swiger was killed by a suicide bomber March 25 in Baqubah, Iraq.
(AP Photo/Joel Page)

Mr. Lonely
words/music by Bobby Vinton and Gene Allan

Lonely, I'm Mr. Lonely
I have nobody for my own
I am so lonely, I'm Mr. Lonely
Wish I had someone to call on the phone

Now I'm a soldier, a lonely soldier
Away from home through no wish of my own
That's why I'm lonely, I'm Mr. Lonely
I wish that I could go back home

Letters, never a letter
I get no letters in the mail
I've been forgotten, yes, forgotten
Oh how I wonder, how is it I failed

Now I'm a soldier, a lonely soldier
Away from home through no wish of my own
That's why I'm lonely, I'm Mr. Lonely
I wish that I could go back home

- - -

April is National Poetry Month

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness Day 53

This videograb taken from footage obtained 2 April by the SITE Institute, a group monitoring radical Islamist websites, shows German hostage Hannelore Krause (R), 61, and her 20-year-old son Sinan, crying as she appeals to her country and Austria for help. Germany has condemned the video as their Iraqi kidnappers threatened to execute them unless Berlin withdraws its troops from Afghanistan.
(AFP/SITE Institute)

He Foretells His Passing
F. D. Reeve

I can imagine, years from now, your coming back
to this high, old, white house. ”Home” I shouldn’t say
because we can’t predict who’ll live here with a different
How tall the birches will be then. Will you look up
from the road past the ash for light in the study windows
upstairs and down? Go climb the black maple as first
in new sneakers you walked forty feet in air
and saw the life to come. Don’t forget the cats.

Because you grow away from a house, no matter how much you
come back,
if the people you love are elsewhere, or if the reason is,
nostalgia, don’t worry about small changes or lost names.
Sit down for a minute under the tallest birch. Look up
at the clouds reflected in the red barn’s twisted window.
Lean on the wall. Hear our voices as at first
they shook the plaster, laughed, then burned in the dry air
like a wooden house. I imagine you won’t forget the cats.

- - -

April is National Poetry Month

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness Day 52

(left) U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) (2nd L) and armed escorts visit the Shorga marketplace and interact with local merchants while walking the streets of Baghdad April 1, 2007 with General David Petraeus, U.S. Commander in Iraq (not pictured). Photo taken April 1, 2007.

(right) Soldiers salute as an honor guard carries the coffin containing the body of U.S. Army soldier Jason Nunez Fernandez, after his remains were returned to his native Puerto Rico, at Muniz Airbase in Carolina, Monday, April 2, 2007. Fernandez, of the 82nd Airborne Division, was killed last week along with three fellow soldiers in a suicidal bomb attack against his convoy near Baqubah, Iraq.
(AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

from The Ballad of Reading Gaol
by Oscar Wilde


In Reading gaol by Reading town
  There is a pit of shame,
And in it lies a wretched man
  Eaten by teeth of flame,
In burning winding-sheet he lies,
  And his grave has got no name.
And there, till Christ call forth the dead,
  In silence let him lie:
No need to waste the foolish tear,
  Or heave the windy sigh:
The man had killed the thing he loved,
  And so he had to die.
And all men kill the thing they love,
  By all let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
  Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
  The brave man with a sword!

- - -

April is National Poetry Month

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness Day 51

Bodies of victims of violence are seen on the floor of a hospital morgue in Kirkuk, about 250 km (150 miles) north of Baghdad, April 1, 2007. Violence in Iraq killed 1,861 civilians in March, a 13 percent increase from the previous month and despite a major security crackdown in Baghdad, Iraqi government tallies showed on Sunday.
REUTERS/Slahaldeen Rasheed (IRAQ)

Posthumous Remorse
by Charles Baudelaire
translated by Keith Waldrop

When you go to sleep, my gloomy beauty, below a black marble monument, when from alcove and manor you are reduced to damp vault and hollow grave;

when the stone—pressing on your timorous chest and sides already lulled by a charmed indifference—halts your heart from beating, from willing, your feet from their bold adventuring,

then the tomb, confidant to my infinite dream (since the tomb understands the poet always), through those long nights in which slumber is banished,

will say to you: "What does it profit you, imperfect courtesan, not to have known what the dead weep for?" —And the worm will gnaw at your hide like remorse.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness Day 50

Insurgents lie dead with a live hand grenade besides them in Ramadi during an operation to clear insurgents on Wednesday, March 28, 2007, in Ramadi, Iraq, 115 kilometers (70 miles) west of Baghdad. Iraqi soldiers shot the men, one of them holding a grenade, as the men tried to attack a house. They died during a US-Iraqi house-to-house sweep through what American commanders said was one of this city's last insurgent strongholds. The operation ended with rooftop gunfights, airstrikes and dead guerrillas on the streets.
(AP Photo/Todd Pitman)

from [American Journal]
by Robert Hayden

here among them the americans this baffling

multi people extremes and variegations their

noise restlessness their almost frightening

energy how best describe these aliens in my

reports to The Counselors

disguise myself in order to study them unobserved

adapting their varied pigmentations white black

red brown yellow the imprecise and strangering

distinctions by which they live by which they

justify their cruelties to one another

charming savages enlightened primitives brash

new comers lately sprung up in our galaxy how

describe them do they indeed know what or who

they are do not seem to yet no other beings

in the universe make more extravagant claims

for their importance and identity

. . .

confess i am curiously drawn unmentionable to

the americans doubt i could exist among them for

long however psychic demands far too severe

much violence much that repels i am attracted

none the less their variousness their ingenuity

their elan vital and that some thing essence

quiddity i cannot penetrate or name

- - -

the complete poem

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Iraq War Grief Daily Witness Day 49

The family of U.S. Army Private First Class John Landry Jr., his sister Britney (L), his mother Pamela (C) and his father John Landry Sr., stand together during burial ceremonies in Wilmington, Massachusetts, March 27, 2007. Landry Jr. was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq on March 17.

Susan Maxwell

look the snow is like us,
tide-metal bell flung open
to ocean. No farther
says the chamber with trees
filigreed fast to its edges.
Coal-fat in winter, a prayer that burns
when inverted. Oh please
says the fire in the trees.
The story streams
from gull to gull,
each beak a clear carrier,
what happens nowhere
to be found there.
Nowhere to be found.
Overcast gull. Eyes flying
into the noise,
the lead silhouette.