Tag Archives: Afghanistan War

Whidbey AIR interview

adult contentWednesday afternoon’s interview with Perry Woodfin at our online public radio station, WhidbeyAIR  about my upcoming chapbook, Collateral Damage, from Finishing Line Press challenged and intrigued me. We explored questions about post traumatic stress and drone warfare. Perry expanded my definition of the damage trauma can inflict, and engineer Gwen Samuelson updated me on our shared D.C. hometown.

I didn’t know much about WhidbeyAIR before. I kept looking for it on my radio dial until I realized, “Duh — it’s only online.” Organized by Langley artists in the late 1980s, it aims to connect creativity on our island with the world. An all-volunteer staff keeps it up and running.

My interview with Perry will air Saturday, the 19th at 10pm, Sunday the 20th at 2pm. Otherwise, just link to WhidbeyAIR and click “Listen” to hear streaming content.

Collateral Damage Cover

Cover design: Buffy Cribbs

Here is a courageous book, one where men pray to rain, where men are executed in “retaliation for scorched words” that “are sacred.”When the word “heat” becomes a moving elegy and “Traffic” a boy’s name–the reader realizes that poetry’s power, its impulse, is to name the world anew despite all the sorrows–or maybe because of them.   Ilya Kaminsky

As our agonizing engagement in Afghanistan winds down, some reflection seems timely. My connection with a friend posted in Kabul and my concern for his safety led me into that turmoil. It focused my attention on the war’s actors, its reporting, its mean failures and small successes. Lesser known individuals with amazing stories riveted me. Sgt. Lynn Hill flew Predators from her base in Las Vegas, while Mohammedullah guided heavy trucks over Afghan passes with his Pepsi bottle baton. Robert Bales’ name seared our national conscience after that Panjwai massacre, and who could help loving Lt. Col. John Darin Loftis for his halting recitations of Pashto poetry.

     Collateral Damage is a scrapbook of poems, of personalities who confront us with unanswered questions. What have we accomplished after 12 years in that blue land? Is it enough that we did our best to offer Afghans a chance at self-determination? Were the countless heartbreaks of loss and estrangement worth that effort? Is the effort, itself, the ultimate reward?

You can reserve your copy of the chapbook online at Finishing Line Press, https://finishinglinepress.com/product_info.php?products_id=1977.

My thanks.

Linda Signature

Collateral Damage

In early 2012 a friend I’d met long ago confessed he’d “fallen hard for me” at the time. We’d corresponded across all those years. First letters, then emails. I came to know a man who always chose the hard roads not only because they challenged him, but because they were avenues along which he might shape better outcomes. I discovered a patient man who listened with respect to each difference of opinion I raised. I grew to honor someone with wide curiosity about the world, a person whose compassion for its residents did not extend to himself.

Initially his revelation inebriated me. Giddiness quickly turned to anxiety, then anguish as his posting in Afghanistan and unfolding illnesses challenged both of us. A series of poems called Collateral Damage contain my joy, my fear, my grief over our relationship interspersed with snapshots of that war’s horrorific events.

As I read more and more about Afghanistan, I developed a high regard for the journalism of Luke Mogelson and Graham Bowley. Both write lengthy, complex descriptions of that conflict that mock any certainty we may harbor about solutions to others’ traumas. Mr. Bowley’s article about entrepreneurial boys from Kabul’s bazaars inspired Pepsi Boys:

Pepsi Boys

on those days, says Mohammedullah
describing rare big tips from his freelance
job as traffic cop on the Afghani pass
leading to Pakistan
my luck is flying in the sky

he calls his wife and tells her
to cook meat soup
never taking his eyes from the bespangled
parade of top-heavy trucks grunting
through streams of cars     animals

around blind corners on a vertical gorge
guided by dusty boys from Kabul’s bazaars
wielding neon green Pepsi bottle batons
signaling when it’s safe
to start their turn     risk their cargo

each has his position on Mahi Par’s
five mile length     his place
in the caravan’s hierarchy
everyone gets his part of the chain
except Mohammedullah competes

despite the loss of a leg in a mine blast
fighting off the accumulation
of seventy years hard living
against 10-year-old Ihsanullah
who calls himself Traffic

a four year veteran scuffling for rupees
in the engine growls and diesel fumes
loving the adrenalin rushes
striding with new-found authority
through life’s catastrophe

Copyright 2012 Linda L. Beeman