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Collateral Damage

Collateral Damage
The men moved silently through the dark morning air
March, ninety-seven in Albania, one had to take care.

Slowly and quietly, moving from wall to wall
Total radio silence, it was the commanders call.

No warnings, no help, no armored escort
Just men in the darkness, penetrating a fort.

The building in front of them, headquartered a boss,
Albanian gang leaders who caused all this chaos.

The trespassers were Americans, but no uniforms did they wear
hired guns from their government, which was not supposed to be there.

The sentry half sleeping, half drunk on his wine,
caught the first suppressed bullet, and he was the first in the line

of a day that would send many a man straight to hell,
and the rest of the survivors left mentally unwell.

It wasn’t much after, the position was breeched,
Intel was mistaken, not a couple of bodyguards,
But two squads of mobsters, twenty men each.

The men withdrew quickly, to save their own skin,
behind the brick wall, I quickly radioed in.

Send backup, we need it, was our desperate call,
but the radio was silent, no sound from it at all.

Shooting into darkness, they continued their fight,
Two of my men wounded, this was our plight.

“Marines won’t engage”, was what the radio said
I then looked over, and my friends were now dead.

We kept fighting and stalling, as we lay in the sod
In desperation I aimed my rifle, still praying to God.

A God who had promised that he would guide my path
I looked for his love often, but saw only his wrath,

upon innocents and children, which to me was so sad
that so many children died in this land that had gone mad.

But that night God was silent, refusing to engage,
And the gangsters would have killed us in all of their rage.

My hands shook violently as I held onto the mic,
and gave them the coordinates for the airstrike

In seconds it was over, the buildings were gone.
The bad guys succumbed, bleeding, and burning on the lawn.

But horrors in the ruble was what my men found.
Remains of women and children half buried in the mound.

Their neighbors came running, screaming, crying, cursing our names.
Their loved ones were gone, their lives never the same.

Not your fault, collateral damage, that’s what they all say
but I was now a killer of children, no better than McVay.

The bad dreams sometimes haunt me, late in the night
but because we killed a mob boss, all was put right.

Aboard our transport, we ended our twenty-night stay
To attend the double funeral of Michael and Ray.

“It’s all God’s plan”, said the chaplain, “We follow God’s route”
That moment I refused it, and from God I walked out.

But God hadn’t finished, with the consequences from that land
Over the next twenty years, two more friends died
but by their own hand.

A God who didn’t help me when I needed him most,
And left me forever broken, haunted by ghosts.

Back home a Navajo shaman looked into the fire and cried,
as he saw that along with his grandson, my soul had also died.

About this poem

About the Albanian Revolution of 1997

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Written on February 04, 2003

Submitted by on November 13, 2021

Modified on March 05, 2023

3:01 min read

Quick analysis:

Closest metre Iambic hexameter
Characters 3,050
Words 606
Stanzas 27
Stanza Lengths 3, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 3, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 3, 2, 2

Shawn Shannon

Shawn Shannon was a professional military contractor who served as psychological operations in conflict areas of previous decades. He returned to teach school stateside and even overseas. He now works as a independent IT contractor for a govenment agency. He loves writing and poetry and finds it a way to release his memories of the past. more…

All Shawn Shannon poems | Shawn Shannon Books

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    "Collateral Damage" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2023. Web. 30 May 2023. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/113907/collateral-damage>.

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