this diary is dedicated to all who suffer because of war and other disasters

we honor courage in all its forms

cross-posted at DailyKos, Booman Tribune, European Tribune, and My Left Wing.

image and poem below the fold

An Iraqi resident lies unconscious in a hospital after he being wounded during mortar attack by insurgents in the neighbourhood of Mahmodia district in Baghdad December 21, 2005. The trial of Saddam Hussein on charges of crimes against humanity resumed on Wednesday and the former Iraqi president, who boycotted the previous session after telling judges to ‘go to hell’, appeared in the dock.
REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani

Red Poppy
by Tess Gallagher

That linkage of warnings sent a tremor through June
as if to prepare October in the hardest apples.
One week in late July we held hands
through the bars of his hospital bed. Our sleep
made a canopy over us and it seemed I heard
its durable roaring in the companion sleep
of what must have been our Bedouin god, and now
when the poppy lets go I know it is to lay bare
his thickly seeded black coach
at the pinnacle of dying.

My shaggy ponies heard the shallow snapping of silk
but grazed on down the hillside, their prayer flags
tearing at the void-what we
stared into, its cool flux
of blue and white. How just shaking at flies
they sprinkled the air with the soft unconscious praise
of bells braided into their manes. My life

simplified to “for him” and his thinned like an injection
wearing off so the real gave way to
the more-than-real, each moment’s carmine
abundance, furl of reddest petals
lifted from the stalk and no hint of the black
hussar’s hat at the center. By then his breathing stopped
so gradually I had to brush lips to know
an ending. Tasting then that plush of scarlet
which is the last of warmth, kissless kiss
he would have given. Mine to extend a lover’s right past its radius,
to give and also most needfully, my gallant hussar,
to bend and take.

– – –
put a meaningful magnet on your car or metal filing cabinet

read Ilona’s important diary at MLW – Returning Vet PTSD – One Soldier’s Story as well her comprehensive series on PTSD and Iraq War vets.

view the pbs newshour silent honor roll (with thanks to jimstaro at booman.)

take a private moment to light one candle among many (with thanks to TXSharon)

support Veterans for Peace
support the Iraqi people
support the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC)
support CARE
support the victims of torture
remember the fallen
support Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors – TAPS
support Gold Star Families for Peace
support the fallen
support the troops
support Iraq Veterans Against the War
support Military families Speak Out
support the troops and the Iraqi people
read This is what John Kerry did today, the diary by lawnorder that prompted this series
read Riverbend’s Bagdhad Burning
read Dahr Jamail’s Iraq Dispatches
read Today in Iraq
witness every day

A personal note: I have spent the past two years working as a staff nurse with patients who are undergoing bone marrow transplant as treatment for their leukemia, lymphoma, or other serious blood disorder. On January 3rd I will begin my new assignment in a large and active neuromedical/neurosurgical intensive care unit, where I am more likely to be confronted by patient care challenges like that depicted in this image.

The general nature of my work has clearly sensitized me to issues of death and grief. In the case of bone marrow transplant, that process most often plays itself out in slow motion, unfolding over the course of days, weeks, or even longer. Many of the patients I’ve encountered have already faced death one or more times, and have endured chemotherapy or other debilitating treatment, along with the emotional roller coaster of diagnosis, treatment, remission, and recurrence.

Perhaps most notably, they walk in to begin treatment. They may not even appear outwardly sick to most observers, though they certainly suffer unpleasant side effects and potentially fatal complications over the course of several weeks, because a bone marrow transplant can be among those most punishing of treatments. About one third of the patients who undergo transplant do not survive to leave the hospital.

But as I said earlier death, when it comes in that setting, almost always gives fair warning, and even allows for all involved to contemplate the end and to give it some personal meaning, though we also often let those moments slip by.

My new assignment will be substantially different in several ways, most strikingly in the suddenness and speed with which death and grief take place.

It’s common for the patients I’ll soon be seeing to be young, healthy and active one moment, and brain dead within minutes of an event like a burst, and previously undiagnosed, cerebral aneurysm. These people are often the source of organs for transplant.

There will certainly be joyous moments and successful outcomes for me to participate in in the coming months, just as there have been over the past two years. And the overall message is the same – life is precious, and death comes to all. It’s up to us to give them meaning, and to make them both gifts to cherish.

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