On the 17th floor of the Holland Apartments
One floor from the top, down on Haifa St.
Was a slender but shapely figure with long,
Blonde hair, three feet or more it seemed.
She stood there evenings, in a white tank-top
And faded bluejeans, hair draped to one side over her curves
As she brushed those golden strands; luminescence.
She did this routinely, as I often saw while patrolling.
So much so that my designated marksmen
Raised their rifles high if only to use their
Scope to get a better view. She was gorgeous!
Such a beauty here in downtown Baghdad,
In the lull after The Surge, giving me hope.
One hot afternoon in the spring we walked through
The apartments, per the norm, and we stopped
To take five and talk to the residents about
Power problems, or something like that.
In the group of schoolgirls sitting on a bench
Was our blonde-haired beauty, waiting on the
Power so they didn’t have to climb seventeen flights
To their homes; power being intermittent, you see.
Such a lovely young girl of 17 or so; With fair, olive skin,
And almond-shaped eyes, and her wonderful hair!
We chatted with them for a spell, my ‘terp to relay
That when I was 17 we’d take the stairs, I joked.
But they insisted there were just too many. Youth…
They were glad we were there, Haifa now safe –
Collecting ‘atmospherics’, building rapport, call if whatever –
We hadn’t chatted-up pretty girls in forever and were
Happy to finally see up-close who distracted us all so much
From her high perch, evenings, when we patrolled by.
This girl will be a star someday – a bright star of Iraq.
Her future! She’ll go places – she wants to study law, she says!
“Tell her,” I say “That she must know – every night
On the balcony when she brushes her hair – she breaks
The heart of every soldier in Baghdad”. Giggles erupt
And our beauty blushes, smiling a thanks, happily;
Her friends jealous she is the object of my affection.
As the sun starts to set and the heat dies, lights flicker on.
“Well, your elevator is here, and we have to go.”
We say our goodbyes and they wish us farewell,
Still giggling a bit as they gather their things.
As I form my men up and we’re about to depart
I put my helmet back on and turn to get one last
Glimpse; I wave. The elevator doors open, and our beauty
Limps in, that shapely right leg near useless; She hobbles
Inside. My heart sank. ‘Too many stairs’, I thought. Dammit.
A neighbor saw me wave, told me her story;
Suicide car-bomb. On her way to school.
Innocent bystander. A victim. Shattered hip,
Busted leg – and the bit that got her guts…
No one will marry her, not if she can’t have kids…
She smiled and waved as the doors closed.
I could’ve cried right then and there, a lump in my throat.
All of my hope died there that day. And I never
Had hope for Iraq ever again.
Published for my pal Craig, who was there too, and loves what this poem represents