Jeremy Stainthorp Berggren

On the Eve of September 11th

On the eve of September 11th I held my friends’ new baby
awake and against my chest, our hearts collide.
little left hand cups around the interior point of my clavicle,
where the two bones come so near together,
at the bottom of my neck, and I am learning to breathe,
again.

And my body hurts.
it has been aching for three weeks now with those war drums
drumming, sound bites that sound
like the same old shit all over again.
And it hurts. It hurts my body, and it hurts my friends.

earlier that night a bug flew inside and it was –
making a racket – in the corner of the living room
so, like any good marine, my friend, the father –
he grabbed his drum sticks and we
proceeded towards the corner and that side of the room
not knowing if the bug was in the corner, near the ceiling
or hiding somewhere in the blinds or by the windows

we tap all around the lights and windows and walls –
and look up and down,
after awhile we turned this little charade
into a performance art piece, call our troupe the:
“stoned jarheads”

we finally find the bug in the light
my friend says he will lower it down
I can smash it with my shoe

and then my friend decides, instead of smashing it
we can just take the lamp outside
instead of tricking the bug out just to kill it
and then it could just fly away out there and simply, be

this all happens in about five minutes
how simple it was not to make any quick decisions
limited strikes, at the bug, and let it go, peacefully
it seems this has taken other men thousands of years,
and they still just want to kill whatever it is
that bothers them

to just kill what they don’t understand.

On the eve of September 11th
I hung out with my friends, and their newborn baby
we ate ice cream and drank coffee with maple syrup
and coconut creamer –
we had delicious lasagna
and babies spoke softly without words
with infinite knowledge

do you smell, that smell,
the mother says – and then says to smell it’s little
baby head
This is where some magic is happening.

On the eve of September 11th
We didn’t talk too much about it being
September 11th

we talked a little about war drums
and our bodies, and babies

the same shit keeps happening over again
and it hurts my body
literally, and in this body
I didn’t even fight
in a war

So on September 11th’s I just talk real talk
or sit alone in silence
And on the eve of justifications of war I must do things
which are life,
affirming

I went to therapy on the 11th this year
and afterwards the chain on my motorcycle busted
and broke the transmission cover open
a new friend now sweetheart came to get me
took me to a pond so I could float in the water
like my maternal instincts told me to
it will be about $600 to fix this mess
and $900 for everything to get into working order

I ain’t really stressed because I’ve been so full of
suicidal ideations –
I just know that for a while, and even if life is a while,
that’s just part of the terrain

so if you see me stranded on the side of the road
with broken chains, or a broken heart
just take me to the river, or a pond, and drop me in.
Lay me down softly. Slowly.
Guide me gently, hold me sweetly.

I have priorities. War is not really one of them

I believe in getting from point A to B, if and only if
I can
I believe little humans are, like my other friend says
our tiny ancestors, with knowledge to share
I have no time for propaganda,
and I swear jobs are triggering
sometimes just because, it’s a job
I have some insight
and war is not something I want to support, anymore
I believe that people do bad things, and that
it is often done by using other people, to do those things

so when I can – when I can I hold babies
and when I can I drink coffee.
And get a little stoned with friends
I remember these war drums, these
war cries –
and even when I try to ignore them they still affect me
today

My body hurts. And I keep crying.
I do not really know if it will all be
okay, but I have this coping mechanism
where I tell myself it will be, okay.

And I can laugh, and cry, and get mad
and do it all over again

on the eve of justifications of war, which is sometimes
everyday
in America
I do something that is life,

affirming. Like holding a child
Holding space
Letting go
I grab coping mechanisms and started to
write my heart out,
and my friend, asked me what it would be like to just
write into it

To just write into it. To get right, into it

On the eve of September 11th I held my friends’ new baby
awake and against my chest our hearts collide
I wear a shit-eating grin
and I am so high from this life force pressing against mine
Little left hand cups around the interior point of my clavicle
where the two bones come so near together
at the bottom of my neck, and I am learning to breathe,
again
I am learning to breathe, again

And on the 11th, if you see me stranded
on the side of some road with a broken heart,
or broken chains
be gentle, share with me your, favorite poetry
Tell me stories of babies and stoned jarheads
and cacophonies of peace and help me
replace those war drums with heart beats and I

I’m gonna get right into, just write into it
On the eve, of justifications of war
give me something life affirming
and on those anniversaries, on those
worst-days, if you see me stranded
on the side of the road
with a broken chain, or a broken heart –

Just take me to the river, or a pond, and drop me in
Lay me down softly. Slowly.
Guide me gently, hold me sweetly.
I am learning to breathe, again.

Combat Paper

We immediately put our heads down and sort of nodded in silence. She leaned over to me and said quietly “it amazes me the courage you all have but when this happens you all shut down.” She always carried a lot of our weight and cared very deeply about every single one of us.
Earlier that day I had arrived after driving a few hours to catch the last day of the workshop. I brought my uniforms upstairs to the studio and placed them on a table.
He came over to me and spoke softly, asking me if I had done this before. I hadn’t. He got me started by telling me to remove all the buttons, any medal—like my rank insignia or awards, my nametapes, and boot ties. I cut my uniforms into small strips, about an inch wide by a couple inches long. It took a while and more of my friends were arriving. This was the last batch at this workshop and I was anxious to get some of my uniforms in, to see what it would feel like. Even though I had conversations in the studio while I was cutting my cammies up I mostly remember thinking:

About that time staff sergeant Blankenship had got in my car to ride to the burial with me, because he knew I wasn’t okay driving alone.
About the stories my friends had told me—finding that soldier that had shot himself through the head with his rifle in the port-a-potty on that base in Iraq—but he was in there like eight hours before they got him—he was just cooking in there above the shit.
About that time I started singing the Chili’s song in the morgue when we saw that burned body—and Charlie chiming in.
About all these moments that were scattered around my head and were still bouncing around but I was just trying to make sense of it all.

When I finished I had a pile of cammies all cut up next to a small pile of buttons, my ranks, nametapes, and boot ties. That rank and my nametapes is what distinguished me from other Marines and it was so small compared to the pile of shredded uniforms in front of me.
My uniforms were put into the last batch to make paper—it’s placed in a trough with a machine that spins it around, cutting it up and pulping it into mush. When it is the right consistency it is placed into 5-gallon buckets with more water. The pulping, pulling the paper, and drying all took place outside. It was a cool day in May above the city right by the lake. It was cool, but sunny, and the wind was coming off the lake. I remember looking at those 5-gallon buckets at that mush of uniforms...what once was a uniform, now about to get turned into paper. It looked like porridge or split pea soup. Like you could eat it.
We took turns pulling—that’s where you take the pulp and put it into a bin with water and pull it with a screen, sifting out the water until the pulp is a uniformed consistency across the screen. Then you press it onto a sheet—sort of a thick felt, that is damp—you press the screen from one side to the other trying to get an even sheet. Once the felt is full you place another piece of felt on it and keep pulling more sheets from the pulp. Once we had a good stack we needed to press the excess water out before hanging each sheet up to dry. This happened by placing a board on the stack of felt and uniforms and this guy hops in his old truck with his head out of the window guiding his front driver’s side tire on the board and pushing the water out, squeezing it all over the pavement. Then we pulled the sheets of soon to be paper out and hung them with clothespins across a clothesline they’d set up for this purpose.
The uniforms dried like that, blowing in the wind on that cool May day.

While we were waiting on the sheets to settle we went back upstairs to the studio. I did a writing workshop with three or four other veterans, and we did a few exercises and were encouraged to read them out loud, and to consider the speaking of our written word as instrumental to the healing process as our written words could be.
The exercises we did involve one reading a poem by a young vet that served in Iraq, and responding to his poem. Another involved reading a poem by an Iraqi then writing a letter from the perspective of an Iraqi, and it could be addressed to anyone. The last exercise was sort of whimsical, like a dream. I wrote a letter from the Iraqi family who went to my friends to help dig up their young daughter that had been buried in the desert some time before at a mass gravesite. I wrote about tree houses and how if we could have a network of tree houses it might mean less homeless vets, and maybe when we got in them we’d feel like kids again. Maybe if we had tree houses we could forget some of the crap we were still carrying around.
I wrote about shame and anger; and guilt—and we all shared our writing and experiences with one another.
I remember my friend telling us about that Iraqi man he and his unit befriended and worked with in that village, but how the militia found out he was talking to the Marines. One day a black trash bag was thrown over the gates of his base, and in it was that mans head. I was glad he shared that and wondered about all the things he had been thinking when he was cutting all of his uniforms up. How it must have felt to turn those memories into, or how his paper felt now.
My paper felt thick and course.
My uniform was lightweight and smoother. I could put a set of cammies into a gallon size Ziploc bag. After I got out I still kept a pair in a Ziploc bag, and in a bin—I had two—one with my field supplies, another with my dress uniforms and accessories. I still have the bins with more of my shit in them— and I want to make more paper. We wrapped up and went to have beers for a while at this bar and we talked and talked and laughed. After the bar we went to my friends and sat in his backyard—around a big table—drinking and some smoking. We were still laughing and having a good time. Some of my friend’s roommates got home and came outside too—so we talked a little about stuff we had done that day.
It was Memorial Day. It was a cool day in Chicago and one of the roommates chimed in during a lull in our conversations: “Have any of you lost any good friends?”
That didn’t feel right, so I stayed quiet and looked down. My friend, who had led the writing exercises, then leaned over to me and said quietly “It amazes me the courage you all have but when this happens you all shut down.” She always carried a lot of our weight and cared very deeply about every single one of us. I had tears in my eyes and I wanted those outsiders to leave, but we said nothing about it. It was Memorial Day and my paper, the day, my friends, it all felt right. Except that question. That felt like every other day.

PTSD (P.lease T.ry S.omething D.ifferent)

It's not like it used to be
Not like it used to be
He said, c'mon suck it up
They said, it's time you just moved on
She said, wherever you go, there you are
And all I heard was
Nagging voices
Barking orders
Missile raids
In my head
I mean,
It's not like it used to be
You see me here, but I'm so far gone
See me here, but I'm so far gone
He said, you can make a career out of this
They said, thanks for your service, but they never ever listened
She said, you have PTSD1
Post
Traumatic
Stress
Disorder
But can you
Please
Try
Seeing
Death
And then have nothing go wrong
Because you
People
Triggered a
Social
Disease
Because you don't hear shit
After we come home
Not like it used to be,
She said, you have PTSD
Post
Terror
Soul
Disorder
Passively
Timid
Sometimes
Dangerous
Pathetically
Trying
Slowly
Dying
Potentially
Terminal
Spiritual
Disease
I mean, what if I said
Fuck your
Stupid cliches, about picking yourself up
Off the god damned ground
Or letting go of the past, or
Wherever you go, there you are
What if I said
Fuck you
America
You're the disorder
Your greed, your selfishness, your lies
& what if I said
Please be forewarned
I'll be emotionally detached
When you need me the most
I'll be present but gone
& silently celebrating each slow breath
knowing they bring me one step closer to death
& what if I said
I cannot love you, because I
Cannot love myself
What if I said
I'll just stop talking
For months,
Because I may as well, be dead
& what if I said
The only reason I can make art or write with a passion is because I can hate
My paper
My pen
My self
& relationships gone like
Rounds down range
Self confidence lost like
Missing in Action
Simply struggling to move forward
No traction
Spinning.
Spinning.
Spinning.
Out of control
Won't you
Please
Try
Something
Different
Fuck your judgement, your excuses
Won't you
Please
Try
Something
Different
Fuck your pills, your prescriptions
Won't you
Please
Try
Something
Different
Fuck your meaningless, good, intentions
Won't you
Please
Try
Something
Different
I mean, just give me
A set of ears to finally hear
My truth
And shoulders to cry on when I finally
Break down
Just give me
A yoga mat and some good
Fucking weed
A war that hasn't started
A country without greed
Just
Please Try Something Different
& maybe I'll get some hope back,
Because I'm stuck in a hell
Of hopelessness
& maybe I'll stop scanning rooms
& environments & just rest
Maybe I'll stop judging myself
& just accept me for me
I mean, fuck,
She said I have PTSD
& that I had problems with trauma
Before the marines
Couldn't differentiate between
Childhood abuse
And war's excuse
Of freedom, of home
Like pain is weakness leaving the body,
Unless it doesn't leave so you just leave your body
Suicidal thoughts
Maybe became habitual
& cadenced, like
Left, right, left, right
But what's left when you finally come home
Nothing's right
& nobody knows
That anything is wrong.

Please.
Try.
Something.
Different.

1 Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

On Privileges, And Pedestals

When I die, call me a martyr,
Tell others I died for the cause of peace,
And justice,
Like Jesus
Tell them I died for our sins

Is something, I shall never, say

But I know someone will.

On pedestals we're placed because of privilege still,
Unearned.

Did I tell you the time after we got activated and thought everyone was going to Iraq,
About being alone and resolving, that if I had to,
I would kill women or children
Over there?
Please put this on my epitaph.
Agreed to kill the nameless and later tried to sort it all out.

Chris Hedges, anti-war, anti-empire even compared an
Aethiest veteran, disabled, and dying to him -
To Jesus
Said he was dying for your sins
And all the he's were dying for everyone's sins

And this anti-war vet
Who guiltily admitted to
Raping a woman because other soldiers
Already paid for her
Said after he was chastised - not for burning the flag -
But for not listening or cooperating
In our resistance
Said that he was a martyr, and likened himself to Dr. King.

C'mon,
We all know the only folks now
Who can rightfully predict their own death
Are rappers and
They wanna call out
Ivy league black men, now president
Carrying out the same war policies
But when white,
Ivy league, cut from the same old
CIA cloth as their fathers
Sending billion dollar bombs over
Baghdad
They call it Reaganomics
So keep listening to Boortz and Rush
I'll keep the dial on Killer
Mike.
Check.
Mic. Check.

So this is crazy, but somehow before Easter
Smith got his hands on an
Easter Bunny suit.
So when going out for the regular patrol
He was donning pastel hues.
Everyone was laughing,
Well, everyone visible.
In the humvee he took the head off,
For fear of overheating.
And when everything started to rumble
He found himself in the street firing his weapon
Bloodied from the blast
Face unrecognizable
And when that RPG hit...
Smith was full of life no more.

Someone said
It was part of God's plan.
I couldn't help but be in disbelief.
Where was God?
Before the patrol?
What is God, but projected into memories of lives lost
For your cause
Where is God now?
A beautiful Afghan boy was taken, by elders
Repeatedly molested
But keep listening to first ladies -
To their words and their silence
About wars over there

The eldest brother with a nub for a hand
Shielded the youngest from the blasts
The youngest still saw Smith donned in that
Easter bunny suit and asked,
What is that?
Sister, that is the Easter Bunny,
A symbol of their messengers resurrection, and now, like father,
he is dead.

We often place those killing in our names,
On pedestals
What about Marissa Alexander?
Kenneth Chamberlain?
What about everyone subjected to some form of
War
Right at home?
Are they not, a Jesus, to you, too?
Why do your articles still bring up the question
Of whether or not they could have
Had guns
Or could have done this,
When the po-po-police shoot to kill.
Hey crack crack crack crack cracker jack reporter,
Hey heg heg heg heg hegemonic, New York Times
Storyteller
Hey lefty writer wing man,

In the middle ages,
Powerful kingdoms,
Would send, armed crusaders
Into the Middle East,
On quests,
From God

I'm tired of that finite, feudal way of thinking...

And I'll still cry at the funerals
But damn if we're the only ones at war
Damn if we don't even stop to see,
or care
Damn if we would stop, and unlock
Unload
Step off these,
Pedestals, unpack these
privileges
Stop comparing us to Jesus
Blindly thanking or calling us heroes
Stop using that pronoun and ignoring her -
Them

Just stop, and listen
To the sirens -
On the other side of the tracks,
Over on Fayetteville street.
I swear some of the lights are longer in East Durham
So they can check your plates
Checkpoints
Across the globe
Killing families
Wrong tags
Bad info
Unclear intel
Officer, soldier, author, activist
Check your self
First.

And please,
Stop calling every new crusader -
Christ
Please
Either find a new,
Myth
Or at least tell
The whole fucking,
Truth
And please,
stop rendering everyone else,
Invisible

Armistic Day

Tomorrow is Veterans Day...shit, by the time I'm done writing today is gonna be Veterans Day.

It's funny how names change over the years, huh?

Armistice Day, a day honoring peace from the end of the First World War is now a day to honor "veterans," whatever that means. Must be like the War Department changing its name to the DOD... got to manipulate the people.

I was at an event tonight with 2 speakers; an Iraqi and Iraq War Veteran.

The Iraqi man now works for AFSC, and he brought up an interesting fact. The VA has numbers showing that the number of Vietnam Veterans that have committed suicide since the Vietnam War ended has already surpassed the number of casualties from Vietnam.

To me both numbers are sort of bullshit, because I know people always fall through the cracks. What about the injuries leading to death? What about the vets that never got admitted into the VA or were never counted by them?

The vet that spoke is also a member of IVAW and a marine. He went to Fallujah - twice. I just typed Fallujah, and this f*cking word program didn't know what it was - the first correction is hallelujah. Shit, maybe it's a sign. Anyways, I knew another marine that was there at the invasion of Fallujah.

He said for a week the US spread literature saying anyone still there was going to be seen as the enemy, that the US was there to help, and this was also in concert with heavy bombings. When the marines went into the city there were bodies, and body parts, all over the streets. Do you know what happens to bodies when they sit around? They swell up, they pop, they smell, they don't even look human anymore. And anything left alive in the city was basically fair game.

It's funny, how we celebrate soldiers with parades and patriotic songs and shallow stickers while not questioning the weight put on their shoulders, huh?

You know what I mean of course, the weight of seeing a civilian and being under orders to basically kill anything in sight. The weight of annihilating peoples' homes just because you are there and tasked to find terrorists. The weight of realizing you are fighting a war for corporations and US hegemony of the region because of oil, greed, and a hint of Christian justification because of odd concoctions using biblical reference and ethnic lies.

So, Veterans Day - What do we do?
Like I said, have parades.
Thank men and women that "served."
Go shopping.
You know, stuff.

I'm thinking of my favorite poem by my favorite poet, Siegfried Sassoon. It's called Suicide in the Trenches, and it goes like this:

I knew a simple soldier
Who grinned at life in empty joy,
Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
And whistled early with the lark.

In winter trenches cowed and glum,
With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
He put a bullet through his brain.
No one spoke of him again.

You smug faced crowd with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you'll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.

I thought of that when the Iraqi man spoke, when he said the number of suicides of Vietnam Vets since Vietnam has exceeded the casualties from the War. And that's a little silly in itself. That we know these guys are casualties from the war, but they aren't counted as such. We are still sustaining casualties from Vietnam.

F*cked up.

I like that poem by Sassoon. I don't like it – like it makes me happy. I like it - like it speaks to me. I hope you get that when you read what I'm writing. I found out about Sassoon in 2003 when my unit got activated. We got activated, but didn't have deployment orders. The orders we had were to train us in mortuary affairs. This is basically graves registration. If you still don't get it the job is getting dead marines when they die, and getting their effects on them when they got killed, and being the first ones to start the process of sending that marine back home. Anyways I started reading this book called A Rumor of War. The marine that wrote it also did graves registration in Vietnam, and he used lines from Sassoon's poems in the beginning of different sections and chapters in his book. So I looked up Sassoon and got a book of his collected poems. And I like that one, Suicide in the Trenches.

A year and half prior to getting activated one of my sergeants committed suicide. Maybe that's why I like the poem. It let me know that even back in WWI people were f*cking clueless and cheered, and paraded, and probably had f*cking sales events at the mall, and no one knew or even cared to know where the youth and laughter went.

F*cked up.

The poem is nice because the soldier just had to put a bullet in his brain. That's nice, huh? I mean, when Sgt. Dixon killed himself at first we didn't know it. The captain came into the unit and said on Monday "Sgt. Dixon was found dead in his apartment last night, police are still investigating." It didn't click then that Sunday had been Father's Day. That Sgt. Dixon took his daughter to a babysitter and never showed up to get her, so the emergency contact was called, and it was Sgt. Dixon's home in Columbus. So his dad drives up from Columbus, on Fathers Day, to find his son.

It wasn't like the poem.

First, he tried to poison himself, we found out later. Poison was all around, like he was drinking bottles of Mr. Clean or whatever other shit was in his apartment. Not like the poem. I guess that didn't work, because he had to try again. Then he tried to cut his wrists. So he was cut up and there was blood all over. Not like the poem. That didn't work out either, but marines...shit I don't know if you know any marines, but they keep going when shit gets crazy. So Sgt. Dixon kept going and finally got his gun out and shot himself. Not through the head, not like the poem. Through the heart. He shot himself through the heart and his Dad found him on Fathers Day.

It wasn't like the poem.

We didn't have a parade, we had a funeral. It was in Columbus and I ended up driving down there by myself. I think I was 20 and I was a lance corporal at the time. All these other NCO's I looked up to were there. We were all in our dress blues. There were so many marines we filled up at least a quarter of the pews. That's a lot of damn marines because we can squeeze in some tight spaces. All lined up, all dressed up, all crying. Not at first, I don't remember crying at first. I almost started when I went to see him in the casket.

That wasn't like the poem. He was dressed for the occasion too. Dress blues. He was always winning PFT awards, so he was squared away in there, well, except his face. The left side of his face was swollen. I kind of knew why, but when I got trained in mortuary affairs I really knew why. But that was jarring. His face. The casket. The flag. So we are going down the side and to the casket then to the pews. And just waiting, just f*cking waiting.

Then his family comes in. His parents...I have no other words to describe them but grace. They embodied grace. Sgt. Dixon's daughter came in too, and the lady that was the mother of the child. Sometimes I loose track of who screamed. It was sometime when the family was viewing him in the casket, and there was a scream.

F*cked up.

This scream, I can't recreate this physically, you know? But mentally, mentally I hear this scream. Emotionally I hear this scream. When I hear or think about more troops committing suicide I hear it. When I research veterans' health care I hear it. When I hear rising casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan I hear it. Sometimes I block it out, sometimes I can, and sometimes I can't. It's just there. I will never forget that scream.

Anyways, that's when I remember crying, really crying. I heard other cries, sniffs, breathing. Man I needed to breathe, I couldn't breathe. And I started breathing and it was like flood gates broke. Tears just started coming down my cheeks. I don't even remember the ceremony. Just crying, hearing the other marines crying. Seeing them in the corner of my eyes crying. Snot was dripping down my blues jacket like a faucet. I was just trying to stop. Just trying to be a good marine. Trying to suck it up. Trying to breathe.

Then we left for the burial. This Staff Sergeant asked me if I was okay.

"You okay Stainthorp?"
I wasn't okay. No one was f*cking okay.
"Yeah, I'm alright."

He knew I wasn't okay. He knew no one was okay. So he got in my car, see I was driving alone. He got in my car and just drove with me to the burial and I don't think we said one word. We got out, and the burial was hard too. Still crying. Saluting and crying. Trying to suck it up. Trying to breathe.

We went to Sgt. Dixon's parents' house afterward. Grace. They had us all in their home, and were grateful for our company. I don't remember it except in their house they had a lot of art. They wrote me a card and sent it to the unit. I opened it a long time ago, now it hangs on a cork board in my room by my bed. I haven't read it in a really long time so I just took it down and read it.

"Lance Corporal Jeremy,

Thank you so much for the card, the words from your heart are so beautiful. Please continue to pray for our family.

Thank you, we are humble and grateful.
Kermit & Sylvia Dixon."

I'm not all right you know. SSgt. was right. No one was or is all right. I'm glad he got in the car with me.

I usually write things that may look like I'm being vulnerable, like I'm putting everything out there. But I'm not. I'm not always putting everything out there. Tonight, right now, I'm having a very difficult time writing. Right now. I'm shaking. And I can't even f*cking type in the first place. It takes me a f*cking long time to write this shit. Like hours. I'm crying and shaking.

I wish. Tomorrow. I hope. I hope one day we can stop parading around and putting god damn stickers on the backs of f*cking cars for vets or the troops.

When I see yellow ribbon magnets I do not see ribbons. I see nooses.
When I see parades I do not see honoring veterans, I see funeral precessions.

I did not know a simple soldier boy, don't you get it? That's why I like the poem. Because he got it - Sassoon got it. None of us are simple like that.

Not when we commit suicide.
Not when we think critically about our actions.
Not when we regret decisions about Fallujah.

He didn't put a bullet through his brain, don't you get it? That's why I like the poem. Because he got it - Sassoon got it. It's not that smooth.

Not when we try three times.
Not when we aren't considered casualties after we come home.
Not when we are discharged for it.

We do speak of him again, don't you get it? That's why I like the poem. Because he got it – Sassoon got it. Silence is betrayal.

So we speak up, so that we aren't confused as some tough guys from the "greatest generation" who mutter combat calls on their death bed and tell no one of the nightmares, of the screams, until they die.

So we speak up, we dig and we dig and we shake and we cry and we learn to talk about it and put ourselves out there so that it doesn't happen again. So we speak of him again -at home, in formations, at Winter Soldier, at the RNC, online, and with each another.

We speak up because we know silence is betrayal.

Do you understand why I like the poem?

Because we are not so simple anymore-
A once meaningful duty now an illegal chore.

Today (now Veterans Day is today) I hope you take off your yellow stickers and throw them away.
I hope you stop your parades and start protesting.
I hope you honor the warrior, not the war.
I hope, I hope for one f*cking day you don't ask me about going or NOT going to Iraq or killing something, or cool stories, or stupid Hollywood shit. I hope you take the hint. That we are not okay.

I am not always okay.

Not with the occupation.
Not with the sexual abuse.
Not with the torture.
Not with bombing for democracy.
Not with the lies.
Not with the US hegemony or racist assumptions of Iraqi's.
Not with the corporate consumption of the "other."

That Veterans Day was Armistice Day and it served as a symbol of peace and now you use this day to justify wars and the people that fight them serve as your pawns.

I am not okay with that.

Today is Veterans Day. Listen to us. And when we say we are okay, just get in the f*cking car and shut the f*ck up and ride with us. Just know, just know that we are humans not machines, but the government reprogrammed us. Just know some of us are racist and sexist and silence is betrayal. Just know some of us want to be with Sgt. Dixon. Just know some of us are still trying to protect and defend the Constitution. Just know this shit is complicated, so stop simplifying everything to sound bites. This isn't a presidential election. People's lives and souls are at stake.

Stop justifying wars because your party leaders prompt you to.

Stop being so god damned self absorbed, and only concerned about the government's interference with your wallet rather than with lives.

Stop being such f*cking simple people. Wipe that smug look off your pompous face and stop f*cking cheering and do something.

Today, this Veterans Day, we are occupying two countries - based on lies. I can think of nothing better to do than oppose the war that justifies killing Americans, Iraqi and Afghan civilians. And if you disagree, well, sneak home and pray you'll never know. Sassoon knew it; after all he wrote about his experience in World War One, before Armistice Day.

I'll be here, I'll be in the car, I'll be at home praying for Sgt. Dixon's family and for the casualties of Vietnam. Iraq. Afghanistan. And wondering -  wondering when America will really ever honor veterans

Real Vet, Fake Vet

Real Vet, Fake Vet, Fake Vet Dead
Real Vet bleeding, Fake Vet red
Real Vet deployed into Iraqi sand
Fake Vet stateside, Djibouti, 'ghanistan
Real Vet, Fake Vet, Fake Vet Dead
Real Vet Orders, Real Vet Borders
Fake Vet stoploss, Fake Vet Dead
Fake Vet soldier
Fake Vet sailor
Fake Vet airman
Fake Vet marine
Fake Vet pog
Fake Vet green
Fake Vet nondeployed
Fake Vet lusting
Lusting for war
Real Vet silent
Real Vet loud
Real Vet medic
Real vet proud
Real Vet kill
Real vet lines
Lines in the sand
Real vet alone
Fake vet near
Lines in the sand
Lines of fear
Real Vet, Fake Vet, Fake Vet Dead
Real Vet dying, Fake Vet red
Real Vet in Iraq
Real Vet did attack
Real Vet followed orders
Into illegal Iraqi borders
Fake vet Japan, Germany, and here
Fake vet waiting
Waiting for orders
Both Vet discharged
Lonely
Not normal
Fake Vet nightmare
Real Vet disorder
Fake Vet raped
Real Vet who
Fake Vet me
Real Vet you
Real Vet Fake Vet Fake Vet Real
How much time 'til all Vets heal?

Like Old Wounds, For Carlos Arredondo

Trauma is like,
Remembering
Old wounds surface like
Memories and we can't seem to
Let, them go.
When bombs blast, in Boston
Them silly cis-conservative-crackers mouth off 
Like they're fighting the war
And when bombs blast-blasted, in Boston
He ran into them
He ran to them
His name is Carlos Arredondo
Many of us know him
From marching, protesting,
Truth-telling
He hugs like, well like hugging, is normal
And the things we carried he holds still
For son
For sons
For daughter
For daughters
For him, and me, and you.

He pulls, a
Flag draped coffin
With his son's belongings
His sons' belonging
Two men walked towards the door
And he responded, like Buddhist monk 
And set himself ablaze
Great protests, great protests often involve
Our hearts on fire
Burning for the loss
Of loved ones
Of sons, of selves
Daughters
Him, hem, her, she, their, them

The weight of walls,
Weighs down, on hearts
Keep pulling, keep fighting, keep loving
They say
Voices, faces,
Inside our heads
Memories like lost rounds and pilots bracing fingers french fried
Memories, clinging, like burnt flesh
To bones.

Father. Father. Father.
I did not know.
Mother. Mother. Mother. 
I did not know.
Oh Holy. Holy. Holy. 
I did not know - that
I could just keep walking, in sorrow,
With you.
It wasn't battle fatigue;
My heart just broke, and sitting,
In sorrow -
Spend more time trying to forget
And it just keeps making remembering, happen.

Set yourself ablaze and I'll tell you -
What love and sorrow look like.
Set yourself ablaze and I'll tell you -
What children dying looks like.
Set yourself ablaze and I will tell you –
What losing yourself looks like.

Trauma is a piercing wound.
Trauma is like an old wound.
Trauma is like old, old wounds,
That we thought healed, when all
It was, was learning to ignore it.
What they thought was soft,
Was deeply calloused.
What you knew were bruises,
They called lovely.
And Boston's echo Baghdad's
Echo little children too.
And bomb blasts echo bedrooms
Echo wives and mothers too.
And deployments echo detachment
And monks light themselves on fire
And echos, echo, on echos
And Alpha, Alpha, Lima Echo X-Ray
Oh Alex, Alex, Alexander, don't you know
Your family grieves, they grieve, for you.

This trauma hurts like old wounds that
We thought healed,
But ignored it.
Your father pulls around a memorial for you
Like ancient death rituals, honoring.
And little brother, went, to find you in the dark.
Please don't forget we all love you –

A blast in Boston got your daddy's name out there
He was seen running, towards the smoke, and the screams
He was seen carrying, others, to safety
He was seen standing, like fighters, true
A blast in Boston got your daddy's name, out there
And I know that sniper rounds
Echo, like madness
Through your father's heart,
And around those bombs' booming blasts
There are heroes, and they echo
Like love, if you listen close enough  - 
and look and feel around.
There are others helping too
I remember when he first hugged me,
It felt like I was home.
I heard his scream, it sounds like deep / inside / a lot / of us,
And looks, just like that smoke and pain.

Man, your father was running for these casualties -
Long before just yesterday
This man, this person, this human has been running for casualties
Long before just yesterday
He carries a memorial, for his son, around the country, and he
Has been running for those casualties 
Long. Long. Long. 
Before just yesterday -
Didn't, you see him, running - for you?

Brothers in Dirt and Mud

Back before,
Marines and war
There were brothers
Playing in the dirt and mud
With G.I. Joes,
Myself always taking things more
Seriously, and anxiously, than my
kin counterparts.

And after,
the Marines – but not war –
Because children are still dying.
There were brothers playing
In the dirt and mud.
Not with rugged war-figurines, but with
seeds and green leafy things.
Myself still learning
how to not take things here
so seriously.
Such as my kin counterpart -
His bodhisattva enlightenment
helping me to heal.

And long after,
Life and that war
There will be brothers
buried in the dirt and mud.
In playgrounds of broken toys and homes
Faded, war-torn G.I. Joes, and fields
of green leafy things and fruit trees
Our bodies will rot and return to this earth
And our full spirits will awaken in
brothers again -
The elder always learning from the younger -
And in faint
Pre-life memories
They remember this good earth,
and what steps, towards peace, we took,
together
Myself, still learning
how to not take things so seriously,
as before.

After all,
We will then be the dirt and mud
Green leaf, flowers blooming
And fruit trees above the mycelia
Holding it together
That these young boys
Will be playing in

I used to say, I am not my brothers keeper
Half joking, more serious
But Cain, and Esau had these issues, too
we have learned a great deal
in this life -
At least I have, little brother.
You are a giant in my eyes, and
A laughing buddha,
Holding space for my heart.

I Met Uriah

I met Uriah at the gates of hell
Told me this is where soldiers dwell

I said, dear sir, but your
honor, your virtue
I thought that god, that god
would protect you
Send you up to Heaven's gate
Up there we'd meet
Some new found fate

Good Uriah, he sighed and then he said
Young lad, hell's our home
and death was grand
But the might King David
Well he had other plans
So he sent me to die
For lust and for power
He sent me to die
But don't be weary
I don't believe in fate
Our destiny is hell
and in hell I'll wait

I met Uriah at the gates of hell
Told me this is where soldiers dwell

And I said, dear sir
The king has not stopped
So hell's my home
He has not stopped
He lusted Bathsheba,
So dear a wife
Still lusting for power
And took my life

So we live in hell
After wars dirty game
From David to Bush, Obama the same
Same king, new name,
Playing wars dirty game
And I thought death,
It would remove this weight
But in hell we carry on
We just share the weight

And Uriah looked at me,
Said be good dear son
Will you now stand post
At the gates of hell
I need some rest
You shall greet the next one
And I stood tall with a tear and salute
Bid old Uriah well like a good young boot

And plenty they came, all through
the night
Through hells old gates
It was quite a sight
Young lads and old
We spoke nothing of war
We spoke with our tears
We spoke with embrace
Mourning the task
of killing our race
And we thought war was hell
But coming home might might be worse
And we thought when death came
It would remove this weight

And we spoke nothing of war
We spoke with our tears
We spoke with embrace
We took off our packs
And divvied the weight

We were young lads and old
We were poets and friends
We found quiet comfort
In each others presence
We spoke with our tears
We spoke with embrace
And we thought war was hell
But coming home was worse
And we thought when we died
It would remove this weight

So at dawn I stood tall,
My watch was relieved
By a real young kid, a US marine
So he took on the post, and
I was relieved
We exchanged our post with a tear and salute
We stood tall at the gates of hell
We stood tall with a tear and salute

So you soldiers up there
Heart in hell, but living on earth
When death comes around
Don't you wait
For you'll be greeted well
At hells old gates
Standing and waiting for you
At hells old gates

Advice To Myself

I would like to
Suffer a little less and, say
Maybe smile just a bit
more
Patterns into cycles
Habits into life, when all you
Wanna do, is die
I would prefer to, slow down
At this moment
Rather than to speed up, or even
Keep up
This rat race is bullshit
This rat race is bullshit
I sit in a pasture
Shirtless the breeze is not as
Heavy as my
Conscious but it still pushes
And I sit here, still like
The pond at midnight
Earlier the frogs sounded like
Maniacs
Sounded like memories
When you are trying to forget
My dog sits with me
Secretly gnawing on the blanket
I say "hey" and he looks back
And stops
A tick crawls on my leg I say
"Hey" and pick it off and set it
Down as if it were a
Ladybug
I suppose we all have the capacity
To be a threat to some things
I smoke my pipe
Inhale Virginia tobacco into my
Self it reminds me to breathe
When i sit here,
Alone
My mind wonders like the dog
Off the trail
Like smoke exhaled beautiful then gone.
Let go. I remember.
Let go.
Let go.
I kept thinking I could forget
maybe on the next birthday,
Milestone
Anniversary
but memories do not leave your
Bones
Walking I remember
Faces
Names
My mind snaps back as if I
Am a teleporter, time traveler
Lost in the past holding on,
To things I never controlled
It's funny how deep blood runs
Like microbes beneath the forest
Floor
I forget. (That)
I remembered so much pain,
and I forgot.
I forgot to breathe. Suffocating.
Choking.
It's okay to move forward and not
Get stuck in memories.
Be gentle with yourself,
And take great care in the moment
When your mind races, bounces, snaps
No need to scold
Be gentle with yourself
Softly nudge back into the moment
When memories persist and
Take you back
Fill your lungs with a breath
And inhale from the bottom of your
Spine up, up, as far as you
Can fill up your bones, back,
Ribs, Lungs, Upper back -
Practice.
Practice. Practice.
Eventually you might breathe into
Your neck
Give space
Permission
Lymbic system
Trauma.
Old wounds creep in
Like karmic lessons. Past lives
Understand inter-being
Pain and happiness
Love and love and love and
Let go.
Cycles circle around back
Around
You do not have to solve –
Anything.
Just be.
Be gentle with yourself.
Practice care,
Compassion, and
Breathing.

On Privileges, And Pedestals

PTSD (P.lease T.ry S.omething D.ifferent)

Excerpt of reading of PTSD at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival

Chantelle Bateman

I am a writer, poet, and visual artist. I am involved in Warrior Writers as a participant, performer, organizer, and facilitator. I am also active in IVAW and various arts and cultural activities, and I am featured in Truth Underground, a documentary about spoken word artists in the triangle area of North Carolina.

I served in the Marine Corps, and was in the reserves from 1998-2006. When I enlisted I had just been accepted into college and wanted to make sure my degree was a priority. My MOS was in supply, and in 2003 my command changed my unit's MOS to mortuary affairs. We didn't receive deployment orders while training so after a month or so my unit just started getting split up. I was in NC when my unit left Georgia to go to 29 Palms, and then Iraq.

In 2004 I graduated from college with a BFA in drawing and painting. I have been working with college students the past few years coordinating leadership programs. My interest in art is really learning how to write or talk about my experiences, and, with visual art, conveying the theme of military suicide. In 2001 a marine at my unit committed suicide, and with the rising numbers of veteran and service member suicides, it is something I feel is still relevant. Too many people are ignorant of the causes leading to suicide by those that committed to military service and the complications for those left behind.

Warrior Writers is one way to educate the public on this issue.

jeremyberggren@ivaw.org