Friday, August 06, 2010

Instead of a post about Timothy O'Donnell

[My thoughts about New Zealand's role in the occupation of Afghanistan are expressed more prosaically in this text.]

Elegy for a survivor of the war on Afghanistan

All surgeons are related
to their patients
by blood.
The best surgeons work quickly
in the dark.
At eight o'clock the lights in the psych ward
flick off, cellphones and girlfriends
are taken away,
and the nurses turn to guards.
You lie still in the blackout,
waiting for a bombing raid.

You often ask
about the past.
The past is a piece of rough skin soldered
to the back of your head.
Hair is beginning to grow over it.
You slept through the surgery
and screamed only once,
just before you woke up.
Your comrades in the ward
screamed in sympathy.
Now, every night, the dream plays backwards
at exactly the right speed,
so that you can admire the hips
and the cheekbones of the women
as they fly slowly
out of their crater
back up to the market square,
and slip their clean dark hands back into their purses,
or back onto the bomb-shaped
loaves of bread,
onto quinces and mangoes
as smooth as freshly-skinned heads.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

isn't that cartoon a bit off? it seems to be suggesting that nz should occupy fiji? hullo? anti-imperialism?

12:26 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some poem, doesn't even RHYME.
Just anti-Western propaganda.
No wonder our culture is going down the tubes.

1:08 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

PS lucky you have your own blog so someone can publish this BULL.

1:12 am  
Blogger maps said...

Shocking, is it not, anon? Free verse and unrhymed enjambment are clearly part of the age-old Muslim/communist plot against Western civilisation.*

And the rot has perhaps gone deeper than you suggest. Not only do I pollute the blogways with this stuff - I am occasionally published by other people, whom I haven't paid for the privilege. I have a poem in the latest issue of Landfall, New Zealand's oldest and most prestigious literary journal, for instance. I published a book of poems which was openly tolerated by certain reviewers. The state totters!

*Was Shakespeare in on the plot, though? I know he used good old iambs, and thus can't be considered a free verse man, but I remember many unrhymed passages in the version of King Lear I studied at school...

1:35 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rudyard Kipling was the last great poet.

10:29 am  
Blogger Chris Trotter said...

Superb piece of writing, Scott.

"The past is a piece of rough skin soldered to the back of your head.
Hair is beginning to grow over it."


1:47 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Milton moved away from rhyme in (whenever he was around - about 1650 or so). Earlier, Shakespeare kept pretty close to iambic pentameter, but of course rhyme was largely avoided in his plays as this would have reduced the impact of much of his stuff.

Shakespeare wasn't known in his own life very well as a poet except for some of his sonnets and one long rather stiff poem he wrote - as they were rather traditional even then they were admired but criticized as being old fashioned by Oxford Uni students. No one except a few friends (and perhaps Ben Jonson, & maybe Marlowe, and a few others saw his plays as "great" although he and others were very popular. But he wasn't much known outside of London until maybe some 100 years after his death ... His main aim in life was not poetry as such (or even his acting career and his clear love of language and drama) to be successful in business which he was.

Pope (later) used rhyme (couplets and iambics) successfully but mostly for ironic use. But it is not the rhyme that makes him a great poet - for me. It is his ingenuity and creativity in ideas and in his poems. Some modern poets use rhyme (Tom Gunn).

But why should the lack of rhyme mean that "...culture is "going down the tubes" ?

2:49 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

I concur with Chris Trotter re your poem. Superb.

2:53 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

The death of the young man is tragic.

The war is tragically wrong.

Politicians such as Clarke, Key, Obama and others are keeping this tragic war going which exists for reasons of power balance and was in probability given the green light by the (US inspired and orchestrated it could well have been) destruction of the Towers in 2001.

Whoever did that - far more (as usual it is mostly civilians) have died in Afghanistan in the name of "freedom" than died in 9/11

NZ should withdraw support of the US invasions. More NZrs (and Afghanis) will die for nothing.

3:01 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

It's hard to get numbers as the US always rave on about their own casualties while ignoring the deaths of the locals - who literally "don't count"... these European invaders simply don't see what they call the "wogs" as being relevant in the Wonderful Equation of "Enduring Freedom"

But, to get things in perspective, about 12,000 Afghanis have died to 1 New Zealander.

But the pattern seems to be following the long war against the Soviet Imperialist invaders (who lost!).

The good news is that the freedom fighters are winning.

3:28 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So you are pro the Taliban?
Fucking bastard.

1:00 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

"So you are pro the Taliban?
Fucking bastard."

Of course I do - to the hilt.
So you are on the other side? You useless Yank-loving arse-licking fucking cunt.

6:06 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why isn't Taylor in Afhanistan fighting then?
Cowardly bastard.

8:11 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Because the Taliban are winning - they always were going to win. The US couldn't win in Vietnam and the Russians couldn't win in Afghanistan and nor can the US-Coalition forces.

The Taleban are using (besides increasingly sophisticated guerrilla warfare methods) their strong support by (and for) the people of Afghanistan and also in Pakistan etc and are conducting the war along lines advocated by Mao Tse Tung (and enabled them to defeat the Japanese).

As Mao said the Imperialists "Lift a rock to drop it on their own heads, do it again, and fall down, repeat and fall down again [ like Sisyphus ], and they keep on doing it until their doom..." The Imperialist powers - despite their arsenal and numbers of soldiers etc and big cash, are basically weak. This is because there are so many non military aspects. The majority of the people of Afghanistan and Iraq are supporting the so called "insurgents" - especially as the number of US and coalition forces killed and injured increases each year, and the freedom fighters are surviving, and no one likes being invaded and bombed...and morale is weakening among the US et al. US soldiers are starting to question the morality of invading Iraq and Afghanistan. People in the US etc are getting wise to military and media and politicians' lies.

Sending sexy cheer leaders to Afghanistan to mobilize and give courage to the troops is a bit pathetic for example...
The people are the makers of world history. (Marx and Mao Tse Tung)
If the US wanted to "save the world" perhaps they should be fighting the Maoist or Communist revolutionaries in the Eastern states of India. India is is - or it is touted to be - a "democratic country..." The US might consider intervening there - perhaps they should blanket bomb India? Or nuc it?

They are very smart people the Americans are (or are they?)...the war is only about 10 years old...

11:52 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

That isn't to say that the Taleban are saints or that they want communism. (They may or may not, that is their choice.) Or that these ideas couldn't come from say Trotsky...

They don't actually need such ideas from "outside" - it is really a matter simply of resistance (national survival) as the US resisted the British to win independence. The Russians resisted the Nazis and Maori resisted colonization etc.

12:00 am  
Blogger Dave Brown said...

Who's the war hero then?
Bradley Manning who blew the whistle on the US secret war in Afghanistan is the Hero. We see O'Donnell as no war hero, but an imperialist invader. His death contributes to the liberation of Afghanistan.

1:06 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is your solution to Afghanistan then? Cut and run?

9:03 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

9:11 am  
Blogger Dave Brown said...

"Cut and Run"
No. Leave now on two feet rather than in a metal box.
The US created the 'Taliban' to get rid of the Soviets in the 1980s. The US created the problem it is not the solution. It is building a huge permanent base so when it does a deal with moderate Taliban to create a puppet government it can retain a forward miltary position to dominate central Asia.
Today's Herald cartoon on O'Donnell is brilliant. A lone poppy in a field of poppies. The only thing missing was the oil well in the background and the stealth bomber above.

12:05 pm  
Blogger maps said...

To treat the war in Afghanistan as a simple fight between the US and its allies and the Taleban, and to back either one or the other, is to accept the categories of political propagandists on both sides.

Matthew Hoh, who last year resigned his post as a US strategist in Afghanistan, says that most of the insurgents fighting the US and the Karzai government are not Taleban at all, but rural Pashtun unhappy by the presence of foreign troops and non-Pashtun government officials in their communities. They have no ideology except what Hoh calls 'valleyism' - that is, the desire to be left alone.

Hoh believes that local insurgents are being funded by the Taleban, but says that they are not controlled or even coordinated by the Taleban, and can end the alliance at any time. He thinks that the swift collapse of the Taleban's support at the end of 2001, when rural Pashtuns decided they had no interest in fighting a US takeover of Afganistan's main cities, shows how fragile the Taleban's grip on Pashtunland really is. It may well be, then, that the presence of the US and its allies in rural Pashtun has actually been throwing a lifeline to the Taleban.

Hoh also has some very interesting things to say about the split within Pashtun society, between more liberal urbanites and the very conservative rural population, which has no desire to be 'modernised'.

You can read a profile of Hoh here:

12:14 pm  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hi maps Thanks fro the link Te Aroha its very useful link.

11:41 pm  

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