Collateral Murder – an epiphany (for Ethan McCord)

I tried to forget,

But you see my eyes filmed it all;

Every bit,

And I’m locked into this perpetual viewing -
Camera;
Soundtrack;

And the Stench

Coming new upon the scene, I felt the dismemberment seeping my fatigues in the extreme heat; strewn like trash worried and torn by dogs, it was hard to believe these were bodies of men – the pavement seemed to cry to me to lie down in empathy, yield, and be received, fragmented, with its unburied dead – respect almost brought me to my knees

but in the heaving of that decaying suburban street, I imagined I heard, in the far away land of the living, a small child, and there was a van at the edge of that ‘engagement’, and from it now trickled a thin wailing; a siren reeling me into its source, and two children (I am the father of two children) were intimate participants there in the day’s business; small bodies thrown by the enemy they couldn’t see into the violent dismissal of their father – limbs binding them together as if to forever identify them in loss – and, picking them apart

I took the girl into my arms and I found my own life lying there; her blood ran into mine, and I was taking glass from her eyes – the enemy insurgent who was four (with the spilling belly) – so that she could use them to cry; then, running through confusion, I was back to her brother, whose life now flickered every yearning I’d been schooled to forget; and, against despair, I was

opening up all my longings into this child I was holding from death; calling for a response, invoking urgency, hoping, even now, to find the right reaction. Command had none of it: wounded children? A distraction, Soldier! Of no consequence in this adrenal theatre.

But they did for me. Centre stage, they took the limelight with repeated encores, ripping the tortured applause from the flesh and blood of my soul: scene stealers who unnerved every taught response, shattered training, destroyed discipline, called out the roar of a deeper language than the one I had learned to repeat; a torrent bursting its banks and plunging me into the baptism of its resistless current

And that day, you see, stripped the uniform of all but the stain of their blood – it lay there, right here, over my heart, holding firm against all takers; an indelible rebranding

and the torrent ran red with soldier

and they will speak to me, those children to the end of my days
and I will go on listening
to bear witness
to all they have to say

Because before On that old dry ground
In another land

I was every fool’s face

And here Beneath the waters of grief
I have found the grace
Of understanding

Lindi Carter

Download this poem set out as originally intended here.

2 Responses to Collateral Murder – an epiphany (for Ethan McCord)

  1. Ethan McCord says:

    Thank you for writing this poem. It was touching. And very much so what I felt that day!

  2. Lindi says:

    Dear Ethan,

    When I first saw the video on the Collateral Murder site of you talking about your experience, I was moved to tears by your testimony (and by you), and you conveyed the scene, and how you felt, very powerfully to me. It was this particular video that inspired the poem. I wrote one version of this straight after that and have read varying forms of it at poetry readings since then. Thank you so much for your public witness, and the potential it has to trigger transformation in others. If you ever find that the repetition of it starts to lose its spark, and needs reviving, go back to that video again – it has captured something very special!

    And of course the ‘whole story’ and all the timings and connections…’able to do far more than we can ever dare to ask or imagine’ – going on before us who knows where….(and, as it says in the chat logs, “they touch my life, i touch their life, they touch my life again… full circle” – amen to that!)

    Love Lindi
    xxxxxxxxxxxxx

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