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arts and culture | imperialism & war march 20, 2004

Poem: What Price? (no One is an Accetable Loss!)

I wrote this poem on the eve of the war last year.
What Price?
(No one is an acceptable loss)

The two leaders embraced
Tears of joy in their eyes
A bear hug recorded by CNN
With the whole world watching
Eli, the leader of Iraq and
Aaron, the leader of Israel
In front of them an agreement
Brings peace and prosperity
Signed by all nations

The wind bites at them
Followed by the daggers of freezing rain
Well below zero no one knows for sure
Cold nights where whispers
Travel off into eternity
The screams of two women
In the last few moments of labor
Lying together under the roof
Of former packing crates and relief supplies

P-U-S-H ! P-U-S-H!
"It's a miracle Said Roger"
"Two at once"
"Get more blankets" screams Norman
The birth mothers together
In one final scream
As if by some prearranged plan yell

At that moment two boys are born
They grow up together as brothers
Love so profound and expansive
All those around them are uplifted
Practically inseparable from birth
They live in a daily richness
In the faith and traditions of the other
Defying all conventions, they are as one
Eli and Aaron are born this night

Papers for you sign Dr. Phillips
"Can't they stop that racket?" She says
"These people have less than nothing"
"At least let them catch a little sleep"
The supply sergeant apologizes
"It's the build up you know"
"I'm not sure which is worse not helping at all
Or this useless charade of a relief camp!"
"The soldiers get all the blankets and food!"

"The CDC on the phone for you Ma'am
Yes I understand patient #A65107-HIV
I thought so too. A real breakthrough!
Sergeant! Get patient # A65107-HIV
Sorry, I mean little Katie Ayoob
Get her ready to transport for first thing in the morning
The CDC says it looks genetic, her siblings died of Aids
She should be dead too but ...
I don't understand ... It just left her

Sipping his coffee
Looking back on his first days
As a sergeant in that camp
Even as a boy Harry wanted to save lives
Top of the class in every way, Passion they all said
After 20 years as a Secret Service Agent
He now headed the detail
That protects the President; The "Angel"
They called him had saved two Presidents already

The President now stood on the high platform
Through the binoculars Harry spots him
Harry's heart pounds and his training kicks in
Go! ... Now!, Now!, Now! M-O-V-E!
Sniper on building A-6
The sniper, in place for 3 days begins to tense his right hand
The trigger on his Barrett .50 cal. rifle moves
Harry tackles the President, 500 yards away the bullet's impact destroys a signpost
The stop sign, severed from its 4" post clangs to the ground

The alarm sounds
The two brothers
Roger and Norman pull on their black boots
The trucks from ladder company 28 roll
"Dammit!" says Norman "I hate these old high rises"
Roger, already on the radio
"Get City Services here now, and no I don't care what time it is!"
Roger and Norman after 30 plus years were experts now
They knew the dangers these old buildings held

Those who were not careful
Who did not know their history
Would too late discover the damage
Unused oil tanks and poorly converted gas lines would bring
Norman and Roger knew and the crew of ladder 28 knew
It took hours but all were saved that cold wet night
Drinking coffee at the fire house Norman and Roger shake off the cold
They say to each other by the look in their eyes " Not as cold as that camp"!
What were their names? "Eli" said Roger. "Aaron" said Norman

The big ones cracked and fell
Trees and branches landed on men and equipment
It did not matter it was cold
The wood was needed for heat
All available men were ordered to their stations
"In coming bogey at Mach 1 sir"
"Target is acquired sir,
"Ready on your command" Fire! Came the command
As the rocket left its launcher a branch tore away a tail fin

"We've lost it sir" Lost it?
"Yes, must have been a malfunction"
"Running diagnostics now"
"Rocket is not responding!" Impact in 3, 2, 1...
This just in from CNN:
A rocket destroyed a refugee camp
There were no survivors... The Defense Department says
We'll probably never know... The weather will make
An accurate investigation impossible

Eli and Aaron are dead
Their peace accord never happened
Dr. Phillips and patient #A65107-HIV are dead
Katie's breakthrough is lost
Sergeant Harry is dead
And with him three Presidents
Roger and Norman are dead
As are the 300 people in the fire that night
What price, that first cold wet night in the war with Iraq?

My vision ends
I weep