Saturday, 16 September 2017

The Peace Keeper


​This poem was written following a prompt of "Peace" from Poets United.

Having served as a soldier and officer in the British Army I found that about half of my operational tours were spent serving as a 'peace keeper' wearing the United Nations' blue beret. A thankless task which involved living in highly undesirable places while keeping two or more protagonists apart. These missions were often hampered by rules of engagement (ROE) which some bureaucrat in a nice warm office thousands of miles away had dreamt up. Sadly these ROE often meant that harm happened in spite of the UN's presence. Another feature of UN tours is that the kit always seemed to break as was the case with the Landrover in the image above. (Bosnia 1992).

The poem explores the dichotomy of professional soldiers keeping the peace.

The Peace Keeper

They trained him to kill.
To remove a face mask with his fingers,
slit a throat, sever a brain stem.
He can shoot centre mass,
advance with bayonet,
post a grenade,
take out a tank and make a bomb.
He's directed fire and lase'd targets.
They taught him to ambush
to advance under fire,
to suppress his own fear and press forward,
to fend for his mates - he will go it alone
and can kill with a shovel a stick or a stone.
His aggression's controlled, but
behind his tranquil eyes and square jaw
is a highly trained soldier ready for war.
Now he stands between combatants
capability checked,
the irony...
The rules of engagement in his pocket
and the blue beret on his head
make him the peace keeper.

John Carré Buchanan
15 September 2017


If you click on the link below you can listen to me read this poem.



This poem is linked to Poets United.

34 comments:

  1. A powerful poem. I think this is a favorite of yours. It gives me a picture of this soldier and his training. I see his capabilities. May his skills / talents / intelligence always be used to maintain peace!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Mary, Thank you for your kind comment. I am glad this poem spoke to you. I was a little worried that it might not go down that well. I too hope that the skills are only ever used to protect peace.

      Delete
  2. All my respect and gratitude to you. This speaks from your heart. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Martin, Thank you for your kind comment, I find that being open helps bring my work to life.

      Delete
  3. Replies
    1. It certainly is Colleen, thank you for your comment.

      Delete
  4. The words, so simple and honest, go straight into the heart. A powerful write.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Sumana, Thank you for your kind comment. I am glad you appreciated the poem.

      Delete
  5. Let this poem out there, in all its knowing irony, but also its humility. I can feel the soldier holding still, combing through his skills, trying to find one to handle this situation. Train people for peace! Take nothing for granted. Teachers learn we even have to teach respectful conversation if we want it in our classrooms--but who taught it to us?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Susan, Thank you for your comment. Peace is something we all need to aspire to.

      Delete
  6. A soulful write John. Thanks for sharing

    Happy mid-week

    much love...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My pleasure Gillena, thank you for your comment.

      Delete
  7. thanks John. You told it so honestly and real here. Very riveting!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you J.T, your comment is very much appreciated.

      Delete
  8. I think of Romeo Dallaire in Rwanda, his hands tied, and how that destroyed his inner peace for the rest of his life. A strong, well-written poem, John.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Sherry, Yes you have hit the nail on the head, that is exactly how it leaves you! Thank you for your kind comment.

      Delete
  9. Deep ironies present in this John. thought provoking poem.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Paul, thank you, It was a difficult subject to broach, I'm glad that my approach has been received so well.

      Delete
  10. Never thought so, peace at the cost of death and restlessness.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Perhaps not at the cost of but at the knowledge that it is the alternative. A subtle but important difference! Thanks for your comment Vandana.

      Delete
  11. Hi John. Listening to your audio whilst I read your poem gave it a feeling intenseness and in a way a sense of urgency. By this I mean I could almost feel the soldier having nerves like a coiled spring, being ready to react to any dangerous circumstance put in his path. I would imagine that maybe the 'ROE' could well be like being attached to an elastic rope anchored with red tape. Most enjoyable read on such a serious topic.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your kind comment Julian. The ROE are an interesting one, they place a real burden on a soldier who has to be prepared to act instantly to protect or take life, knowing that the decision may be tested in a court where people who have no concept of the complexity of the decision, or the environment in which it was made were taken, and the benefit of hindsight. It is an almost impossible position to be placed in.

      Delete
  12. A well written recount and sad contradiction in this powerful poem.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Marja, thank you for your kind comment.

      Delete
  13. A powerfully rendered articulation of the paradox that is peace keeping in war torn places. Your use of rhyme - midway - is masterful:

    'to fend for his mates - he will go it alone
    and can kill with a shovel a stick or a stone.

    and really served to emphasize this strange and chilling dichotomy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Wendy, thank you for your kind comment. I am glad you liked the poem and the use of the rhyme.

      Delete
  14. Thank you, John. Being placed in a catch-22 situation must have been frustrating.
    Beautiful writing, and speaking.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Sara, thank you for your kind comments. It is a very difficult position to be placed in. The frustration is that soldiers are often maligned, right up until they are rescuing people from flooded homes or delivering the first aid to people who are in impossible positions. Kipling's Tommy says it all... It's thank you Mr. Atkins when the band begins to play!

      Delete
  15. Staright from heart...it's a difficult but bold life....maybe we can only assume and never really know that life....thanks for wonderfully capturing it in words..

    !! Salute to peace keepers...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Sreeja, Thanks for your comment, it is a difficult life, but fortunately there are people prepared to do it.

      Delete
  16. Thank you, John, for this look into the mind of a soldier. It must be hard to keep this in check when something happens, to temper all that and do the least harm when confronting danger. I know a chap in the UK who's been in the British elite, a spy really and he's very close-lipped about his experience but he's seen it all.

    ReplyDelete
  17. The meaningful lines go to the heart directly. A soldier has to face plights, still his courage counts.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Rudraprayaga, thank you for your kind comment.

      Delete

I really appreciate constructive feedback. If you are able to comment it would be most grateful.