Monday, November 11, 2013

[Poem] Raven Remembers, 1999

Blackbirds in a cold war
Filled my skies for a lifetime:
Freedom, death, life, hope
Screeching from the shadows

Secrets in the eye of the beholder
A world of strange love and full metal jackets:
A round of drinks in a Saigon bar
Or among the Hmong mountain bears
And a round of ammunition for the cannons.
Who had time for canons and guided missals
As the sky blackened with flak and surface-to-air missiles?

Seeing so much, seeing so little
Gaining nothing, giving everything
Smashed like a shot glass in the name of policy,
Screwed to an ejection seat built by the lowest contract bidder,
Forbidden by the rules of engagement that made more widows
Than I want to remember.

How many times did I see the Missing Man
Missing you, praying the enemy would be missing me?
Was I missing the point in trying to stay until all of our friends could leave
When we weren't even supposed to be there at all?

The song of neutrality in the season of extremes
Drew fire from the ground, a volcano of hate from strangers
Who didn't even know what they were dying for.
Who were they dying for in this puppet game?

A bear? A dragon? Old Ho Chi Minh and his trail in the Kingdom of Elephants?
It's just a road, it's just a mountain, it's just a rock.
But it's not just a village filled with children,
Grandmothers and grandfathers who didn't understand
What we were fighting over
And now, I wonder, who really understood at all?

Centuries ago, Raven brought light into the world-
A white trickster burnt black by the trip

The bird of the prophets, whispering wisdom in the ears of ancient Greeks
And old one-eyed Odin. Drawing life, the strength to fly from the dead
And everything everyone else abandoned.

Defending those who could not defend themselves,
Raven remembers. Raven remembers.
Raven remembers and fought and circled and saw.
Raven saw the roads break.
Raven saw the hearts and minds won and lost.
Raven saw the refugees amid the warriors and at last,
Raven knew. Unarmed, obsolete and
Unarmored, like a knight, without question,
Raven never looked back as he dove toward the enemy-
The snakes in the tiger grass, calling for death, watching his brothers
Fall from the sky, one by one, captured, crippled or dying in everything but their hearts
That dared to believe in the power of freedom, the power of the future

The dream of the day when they would raise their drinks with the words
"Nevermore" as they nailed the damned lid on the coffin of war.

Originally appeared on the Ravens Forward Air-Controller website in 1999. Here's to all of our veterans of wars secret and otherwise.

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