Saturday, 10 November 2007

A Poem for Remembrance Day

I wrote this after watching a late night newscast during a previous Afghan war.

THE RUSSIAN SOLDIER

Dazed by his dying
The Russian soldier
Ambushed
Slowly slides on his seat down the dusty bank
Like a mannequin
Straight backed
Upright
Tumbling to this side or that
Straight backed
Stiff jointed
Like an old man who cannot turn his head without his torso.

Dusty uniform
Afghanistan dust
Blackened bloody face
Russian blood
American money bought a
Russian Kalashnikov assault rifle to be
Pointed at him by Afghan hands.

Having pointed and fired
The freedom fighter
Collects arms and ammunition from
The dead ones while an
American news cameraman
Points his sixteen millimetre
Camera-weapon at the
Dying Russian soldier who
Sits up like an
Old man mannequin
Helped by the slope he's sliding down
Beside the road
To sit up before
Tumbling over again
Stiff jointed
Straight backed
Like an old man because he's dying
Like an old man before his time.

Russians who are already
Dead are
Lying in pools of their
Russian blood
Beside their dead trucks
Standing in pools of their leaking
Russian gasoline.
The American news cameraman is still
Following the dying one who is
Crawling away in his
Blind, old man's search for
Something to crawl under or
Arms to crawl into on his
Hands and Knees.
But all the arms are collecting
Guns and ammunition or
Pointing the camera at the lone
Dying man while the
Reporter takes notes.

Round face
Blackened and bloody
Bruised beneath the blood and blackening
Turns to look back over his dusty shoulder
At me
Looking at the him through the
American news cameraman's camera.

Eyes
Startling white and blue in a
Blackened face
As he looks back at me
In sharp focus thanks to the
Skill of the American news cameraman.
Dying animal look not quite
Focussed on me
Seeing beyond
Things I cannot see
Through the
Sixteen millimetre camera viewfinder.

Because he's Russian
He has no less a mother
a wife
a sweetheart
a son
a baby daughter
a closet full of clothes at home
A chocolate box full of photos and letters
Bound with string
No less a mind full of memories.

Alone
Crawling like an old man-infant
In the dust
Stunned by the blast and the hurt
Being followed by a photographic
Cyclops which only
Stares unblinkingly so the
Folks at home can see him
Die.