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

About anotherwarriorpoet

Mathew Bocian served as a Captain in the United States Army with the Stryker Brigade and was deployed to Mosul and Tal'Afar in 2004 - 2005, and to Baghdad for The Surge in 2007 - 2008. He left the Army in 2012 and now uses his poetry as a way to heal from the traumas of war, while attempting to express to readers the realities of war. He is the recipient of the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, and holds a master's from the Graduate School for Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh.
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