Friday, September 14, 2012

I Wish I'd Written This

Breaking the Silence (an Israeli soldier testifies to the Vets organisation)

By Brian Carlin

“People at the school sat -
hours in the sun.

They could get water
once in a while,

but let’s say some kid asked for water

five times,

a soldier could come to him and slap him
just like that.
I saw many soldiers using their knees
to hit them,

just out of boredom.

you’re standing around for 10 hours doing nothing,
you’re bored,

so you hit them.

At the bathroom, there was this ‘demons’ dance’
as it was called.
Anyone who brought a Palestinian there –
it was catastrophic.

Not bleeding beatings –
they stayed dry –

but still beatings.”

This is not a 'nice' poem but one which I think essential both to be written and to be read. In fact it's pretty much a 'found' poem.  

Brian Carlin, a psychiatric nurse in Scotland, whose poetry blog, Big Ape Diary, I like to visit from time to time, says of this poem in his replies to readers' comments:

The whole thing was an uninterrupted quote from an Israeli soldier and only had a couple of words changed for the sake of the read…

I read the article in the Independent, and took the words from an Israeli sergeant …and tried to arrange them in line breaks to do the theme justice…

The whole article in the Independent really choked me up, I felt it made sense to use the actual words of an Israeli soldier to testify to the brutality which is taking place in the name of State Power…

Even found poems must be crafted into poetry, and that takes fine judgment. I think the treatment in this case is very appropriate. Horrific subjects are often best treated baldly, requiring no further embellishment. The line breaks here do indeed do all the work needed.

Brian has published a chapbook, A Crateful of Empties and a longer collection, A Skinful of Dust, with Erbacci Press, where they are available for purchase.

Poems and photos used in ‘I Wish I’d Written This’ remain the property of the copyright holders (usually their authors).


  1. It is raw and put us there! Visually I can see it happening~ It is sad, but vivid and like a portal.
    The poet found a way to transport us~

  2. I've been reading Brian's blog for quite some time. His works are always honest and never boring. (Not bad for a big ape!)

  3. Rosemary, Brian's poem awes me. Not easy to read, but the stuff of real life. Thank for always finding interesting poets for us to read. You have a gift!

  4. Hits you like a punch in the stomach. A badly needed punch in the stomach.

  5. No, not nice...but a very important one. We mustn't turn away from becoming educated about this kind of tyranny...the more aware we are, the more power we wield.

    Thanks to Rosemary and Brian for the share...

  6. Thanks, folks; I'm glad you appreciate this as much as I do.

  7. This is the first of Brian's work that I have read, and I will certainly be reading more. Compelling and stark, this found poem is constructed to get the most from the quote. Talent!

  8. Thanks Rosemary, for choosing this piece.... Subject matter aside, it's strange looking at the architecture of this and seeing it applied to someone else's words/thought processes... It felt more like sculpting than writing in the making of it

    1. Brian, I often think writing poetry is like sculpting! I can see that in this case it might be even more so.

  9. Wow, Rosemary, this one really hits home. The horrors that come of perceived "Difference" or religion. All just human beings wanting to live. This is a poem with an impact. Thanks so much for bringing it to us.


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