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THE WAR REPORTER PAUL WATSON REWINDS THE FILM.

Before this
 
. My interpreter had asked
   angrily, Are you taking photographs
   we can use? Is there film? Where is the light
   coming from? Afraid to tear the unseen
   sprockets, winding frame to frame. Forgive me,
   I know I can get through this. It just takes
   time. Because before this the mob had been
   welcoming me to the banquet. Gamay
   is here! my interpreter smiled. The Man
   With Only One Hand. My reputation
   unmanning me. My bodyguards leaping
   out first. Because before this our driver
   had spotted the grim mob like a blood clot
   in the alley. Towing death. Before this
   I'd been sleeping on the hotel floor. Tires
   on fire, vomiting smoke. Humvees strafing
   the hotel's facade. Above the circus
   binding up the airport and the harbor
   highways. Because before this I'd been just
   one more choosing to stay behind when
   Dan Eldon, Hos Maina, Anthony
   --forgive me, I can get through this, I know
   I will. Anthony Macharia and
   Hansi Krauss. Four friends and reporters
   beaten, stabbed, shot, and stoned to a pulp. Some
   castrated. As they scuttled to escape
   a whirlpool of pulverized concrete as
   the mob swept down. Can they promise not to
kill us?
 Because before this clan elders
   had been annihilated by a flock
   of Black Hawks pouring cannon fire until
   the compound was a cairn. All to abduct
   the warlord Aideed. Tipped off before this,
   he'd slipped away. While we'd been drinking beer
   on the roof, admiring grenades like fleas
   leaping under armored bellies before
   bursting. Because before this they'd been taught
   how to swap out the fuses for fuses
   that explode in midair. Claiming they'd come
   to quell the wailing with bread. Instead of
   criticizing us, the Pentagon had
   suggested, why not write about these ghost
   assassins? What are they calling themselves?
   Al-Qaeda. Because before this soldiers
   had been rappelling into the courtyards
   of innocents, by night vision grinding
   grandfathers and girls in their pajamas
   into the dirt, AK-47s
   spearing the base of their skulls. This ballet
   brut of aerial arrests. Mission creeping
   like the traffic before this when a boy
   in the back of a taxi smiled and slipped
   the tip of his AK-47
   through the window at me. As if to say,
   Step out of the way, white man. Before this
   Mogadishu was pure. Villas washed white,
   sands like unstained bandages. Forgive me,
   forgive me, I'll get through this. It just
   takes time.
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Author:O'Brien, Dan (American playwright)
Publication:Subtropics
Article Type:Poem
Date:Mar 22, 2016
Words:452
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