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Thursday, January 21, 2016


written on January 11, 2016, the fourteenth anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo Bay detention camp

by Buff Whitman-Bradley

Image source: Amnesty International: Guantanamo’s Poetry

I try to imagine the young soldiers
Given the job of interrogating
The prisoners of Guantanamo

I try to imagine them being repulsed
By what they were ordered to do
But afraid to disobey

I try to imagine the moral crises
They may have undergone
And the collateral damage to their souls

I try to imagine surreptitious rebellions of kindness
A smuggled pencil a friendly word a bit of extra food
A hand reaching out from the wreckage of the self

I try to imagine the nightmares of cruelty
Those young men carry with them
Into their civilian lives

For generations we have filled the haunted streets
With the discarded veterans
Of our perverse wars

For generations we have practiced the art
Of mangling the spirits
Of foe and friend alike

I try to imagine a world nearly here
Where torturers and tortured
Look as equals into each other's eyes

Where the young soldiers of Guantanamo
Come to realize they have more in common
With those they tortured than with those giving orders

Where the brutalized and debased and shattered
May howl their pain and rage
And their tormentors will not turn away

Where both will become healed and whole
From what was done to them and what they did
And will walk among us with great tenderness

Buff Whitman-Bradley's poetry has appeared in many print and online journals, including Atlanta Review, Bryant Literary Review, Concho River Review, Crannog, december, Hawai'i Review, Pinyon, Rockhurst Review, Solstice, Third Wednesday and others. He has published several collections of poems, most recently, To Get Our Bearings in this Wheeling World. His interviews with soldiers who refused to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan became the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. He lives in northern California with his wife Cynthia.