"I am an idealistic, naive, passionate, truth-seeking, spiritually motivated artist, unschooled in the science of law and finance." --Wesley Snipes

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Geneva Convention

When I started this blog, I planned on calling it 'lucky error' for reasons that should be obvious to those who know me. At the last minute, for reasons less obvious, I changed the title to 'geneva convention.' I'd like to say I wasn't thinking. I am, as many folks know (and I'm sure that many, especially in the po-world, do not) a veteran of the U.S. Navy, and the Geneva Convention card was one of those things that I carried, but never really thought about. Of course, we all knew what it SAID, and that it had to do with humane treatment of prisoners of war, and most of us never saw war, and never had to think about it. It occurs to me that it's like the smoke alarm in my kitchen--I always remove the batteries when I cook a steak, or something else likely to produce a lot of smoke. I usually forget to replace the batteries. I never think about it otherwise. When I named the blog, I was thinking of my poem, "Geneva Convention" which I wrote a few years back (pre-9/11) in response to Gabe Gudding's call for advice on teaching in prisons. He was embarking on his first stint as a teacher of poetry to incarcerated felons. Anyway, I had no idea what sort of advice to give someone dealing with prisoners, so I wrote the poem. I now feel like I should say something profound given the recent crimes in Iraq. Abu Ghraib and Nick Berg, and so forth. I'm deeply disturbed and wonder why my reaction doesn't extend beyond dumb shock and then sadness and resignation.

Anyway, here's the poem (which, now, seems trivial):

Geneva Convention
for Gabe Gudding

The enemy is all around you. If you
get caught they’ll make you cry.
If you try to escape, they’ll
throw water on your shoes. If you leave
well enough alone, they’ll poison
your gumbo. If you smell
like an elephant, they’ll squash
your mice. If you eat zucchini, they’ll
over-turmeric the cooking oil,
resulting in jaundice. If you act
like a Frenchman, they’ll give you
dollars instead of francs. If you covet
your own wife, they’ll smile and bring
you bread. If you come in the sourdough,
they’ll kill fifty birds. If you deny
being speckled, they’ll refuse
the right to rummage through the rubbish.
If you turn left, they’ll take a pair of trees
and bury GM Hopkins between them. If you
die in a poetic way, they’ll hire fifty
Greeks to rape you. If you resist, they’ll
convert your cries into dactylic hexameters.
If you stay put, they’ll send ants
to your sandwich stash. If you eat and gamble
at the same time, they’ll put some meat
between two slices of toast. They’ll bring you wine.


Aaron Tieger said...

I had no idea you were "in the Navy" (as they say).

I once stayed at the YMCA, myself.

Tony said...

Yep. Sure was. Petty Officer Second Class Robinson.

I didn't kill anyone. I mostly typed memos and talked to lawyers at JAG in Washington. 1990-1994. Seems like a LONG time ago.

Saddam said...

I'm not real sure what Abu Ghraib and Nick Berg have in common beside the obvious geographic locations each shared at one point. I wonder if there was this much outrage about the treatment of our POWs in Vietnam...I would say no. What do you think?

Tony said...

They both involve people not playing nice.

But that's war, no?