Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

The poetry of an Afghan deployment

Randy Brown has a good ear for military life, especially for what is significant and how it is conveyed, sometimes in subtle ways.

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Randy Brown, DBA as “Charlie Sherpa, “has just issued a book of poetry titled Welcome to FOB Haiku. I really enjoyed it. James Webb once said to me that combat and poetry go together because combat is distilled action and poetry is distilled language. I think he was right.

Brown has a good ear for military life, especially for what is significant and how it is conveyed, sometimes in subtle ways. I was struck by his observation about the custom of wearing a combat patch on one right’s sleeve:

The army wears its stories on our sleeves.

Randy Brown, DBA as “Charlie Sherpa, “has just issued a book of poetry titled Welcome to FOB Haiku. I really enjoyed it. James Webb once said to me that combat and poetry go together because combat is distilled action and poetry is distilled language. I think he was right.

Brown has a good ear for military life, especially for what is significant and how it is conveyed, sometimes in subtle ways. I was struck by his observation about the custom of wearing a combat patch on one right’s sleeve:

The army wears its stories on our sleeves.

Every scrap is a battle, every stitch is a past.

We are canvas, leather, dust, and blood.

Here is his observation from inside a TOC:

we tell stories on boards

and paint pictures for the commander

we are Houston to his Mars. 

And here is a part of a poem called “Hamlet in Afghanistan”:

When we were all that we could be

we did all that we could do

to find that undiscovered I.E.D.

But nothing we can ever do

will change that day in the village

or bring back Rosie and Guido

from the dead. 

Good Christmas present for a veteran friend, I think.

Image credit: Amazon.com

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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