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As a child you gloried
in your water guns, your plastic green tanks
the backyard was your battlefield;
battle cries and machine gun fire
a glorious mish mash
as your Indians and GI Joes fought-
plastic heads hewn from bodies by firecrackers,
mangled dollie corpses hung like mobiles in your room.
You would frighten me, ambushing me in the hallways
your L'Oreal war paint distorting your face
savage, lovable-we'd wrestle to the ground
you'd slit my throat, claiming my scalp for your hero box.
Older now, the city was your theatre of war;
grappling with the urban haunts and spooks that chase every lil Puerto Rican boy,
running with wolves who were grayer, slyer and hungry for prey.
Your bedroom eyes full of naughty little secrets-it was just a game.
Your smile-easy, contagious-promised danger.
How alluring you were, dear brother, chasing death knowing
KNOWING you wouldn't find it-braver because of it, daring it
to find you.
Papa would laugh, a barrel of an Army man
and pat your head-best to leave it as a game.
But you heard the dare in his voice, his unspoken disappointment,
hidden in his silver flask, and you didn't shirk.
Eighteen came, and eighteen wouldn't leave
until you had your own boots on the ground.
Away you went, to play, with real man Gi Joes,
firecrackers now with more burn than sizzle
vast empty wastelands strewn with the detritus of
war games.
You sent me a shell once-spent and burnt-
and I laughed, peeking around the corner as I put it away.
Still such a child.
Your number came up
3ID-and off you went.
No more backyards.
Would you collect your trophies now?
I wondered.
Far off names, Basra, Balad, Baghad- alliteration at its most terrifying.
Letters, few and far, hauntingly spare, always more-more gum, more jerky, more baby wipes.
Send some porn.
The babbling idiots of the political machine
drumming up fear, selling patriotism
for the cause-
Support the troops! Love your country!
for what could we do?
It was wrong, but you were THERE.
Every knock on the door, every late night phone call
the vise would grip my heart.
And when you came back, the boy was gone.
But I saw. I saw.
The mangled bodies, heads strewn across the street like so many old soccer balls;
limbs detached from their owners, you mounted in your Abrams, a deathslinger.
I heard, voices, screaming, wailing, pleading, even-
as you cried out at night.
I felt your hands around my neck as I tried to wake you.
All went black for awhile.
And I knew, but I would know not.
My boy was gone.
A hunter, a killer lived in your coil now.
You who chased war and death like the ice cream truck-
Give me some money! Ice cream!
You had tasted it, dealt it.
The smile, once so easy, was tight lipped and false.
The eyes, charming and lively, were darker than the shadow around my heart.
All of your bluster was gone-did you win the bet?
No silver flask for you-better living through chemistry.
Support our troops! the talking heads continued-
but they didn't mean the broken ones,
the ones who came back
soulless,
loveless,
clueless,
sleepless,
lifeless.
Not you.
And once you realized you were nothing
but a plastic Indian, a shitty GI Joe
disposable, no longer brand new in the box,
who could be blown to bits
with so little muss and fuss-
you reached for the only comfort you could find-
Death.
Is it worse to kill a stranger?
Or kill yourself?
I will never know.
Deathdealers in suits, warmongers in power-
I won't forgive you, for ye know what ye do.
And when death finds you-
May it find you well.


------
Yania Padilla


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Comments

The following comments are for "Ode to a Dead Man"
by Yania

A must read
Not once did I find this epic one iota less than impressive! It read like an up close and personal tribute to someone dearly loved .. and never deserved to be forgotten.

( Posted by: Pen [Member] On: February 4, 2011 )

Tear stains on my phone
Yania,

How could I not respond to this...yet I am at a loss. I have seen what your brother saw. I was there, and heading back shortly. There is not a day that goes buy that I do not remember it. I have seen first hand all of this war on terrors incarnations from the invasion to the withdraw.

There was not a second of reading this that I could not feel your pain as I was wiping my tears off of my phone...

Thank you for this from the bottom of my heart,

CPL. David Moore
SVC Btry 1-77 FA
US Army (active)

( Posted by: HeRoCoMpLeX [Member] On: February 4, 2011 )

Bravo, Yania!
Welcome back Yania...this was a brilliant, soul searching and heart tugging piece.

I have two friends that have lost their boys in the war. One blown up on the streets of Nasyria at the beginnng of the war...and the other came home a virtual vegatable, his mind so destroyed by what he had witnessed, that we will never recover!

Bravo!

Bea

( Posted by: Beatrice Boyle [Member] On: February 4, 2011 )

message
Whatever message you sent me did not come through. There was nothing in the subject line so there was nothing for me to click on

( Posted by: HeRoCoMpLeX [Member] On: February 4, 2011 )

Wow, this hurt!
This too hit close to home. I remember when my son was away in Iraq. This was touching, heart breaking and so vivid. Thank you for sharing... Incredible.

Nae

( Posted by: nae411 [Member] On: February 4, 2011 )

Blame = Shame
I must bow to the popular here and commend you for this very powerful piece. My own wife, career Army was one of the first to serve in the Iraqi Freedom scene, and so I cannot speak of the GI Joe, plastic Indian themeds, because it is doubtful she ever had these while growing up.

But the rest makes sense, and while there is no solution I can see, the last few words certainly made reading this powerful poem mad the length, which I usually say is too long, worth reading, even though my reading ability and reading comprehension ability, made the go back to the beginning of the poem 3 or 4 times. Well worth it. Great literature.

( Posted by: veebdosa [Member] On: February 4, 2011 )

well said
Your poem speaks to a modern condition. My favorite line was "And when death finds you--may it find you well." The feeling of this reminds me of "Masters of War," but this is a much more personal message. Thank you for proof that a poem can be both rhyme and meter free--and still be a poem.

( Posted by: brickhouse [Member] On: February 5, 2011 )





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