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Monday, May 12, 2014


by Buff Whitman-Bradley

Image source: Occupy Beale Air Force Base*

                      for Roger Stoll and Kate Raphael

We stand outside the Air Force base
To grieve the deaths of innocents
Assassinated thousands of miles from here
By missiles fired from unmanned planes

We have come to deliver a letter
To the base commander
Insisting that the drone attacks be halted
In the name of our common humanity

In the broad field in front of the base
Redwing blackbirds are singing in the long grasses
And we wonder what songbirds there are
In the mountains of Pakistan, the deserts of Yemen

And we wonder what is the last sound
That the unsuspecting victims hear
Before they are obliterated from above
The twittering of a small bird? the roar of the approaching missile?

When jet fighters take off every few minutes
Their diabolical roar obliterates all other sounds here
We cannot hear if the blackbirds are stunned into silence
Or if they continue singing in defiance of the din

With our letter in hand we cross the line
Onto the Air Force base
And are immediately taken into custody
By polite young men and women dressed in camouflage

In the guard house the MPs are respectful and solicitous
As they ID and fingerprint and photograph us
Then hand us each a letter stating
That we are banned from the Air Force base forever

Children incinerated in drone attacks
Simply for being in the wrong places at the wrong times
Were not treated with such courtesy and consideration
Before they were banished forever from our shared life

One by one we are escorted back across the line
No war planes are taking off just now
And we allow ourselves to feel a flicker of hope
Hearing the redwing blackbirds singing in the long grasses

* Drones flown from Beale Air Force Base, near Marysville, California, do not fire missiles, but do reconnaissance and targeting for attacks by other drones.

Buff Whitman-Bradley is the author of four books of poetry, b. eagle, poet; The Honey Philosophies; Realpolitik; and When Compasses Grow Old; and the chapbook, Everything Wakes Up! His poetry has appeared in many print and online journals. He is also co-editor, with Cynthia Whitman-Bradley and Sarah Lazare, of the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War.  He has co-produced/directed two documentary films, the award-winning Outside In (with Cynthia Whitman-Bradley) and Por Que Venimos (with the MIRC Film Collective).  He lives in northern California.