My friend, the Diplomat, in Kabul

I know you’re in Kabul,
Spinning policy from your fingertips.
Thin cables, trying to wrap up as many points as possible
Before you get pulled onto that cargo plane.
Because they’ll pull you on still typing, still making calls.
What do I say to you?
What can one say from safety?
I’m here, watching, hurting, feeling it from a distance.
You didn’t even have the decency to look bloody.
You did your tours in a suit.
You did your tours at a desk
You did your tours chuckling at the rocket attacks that missed you.
How many years till the spectacle died? Maybe two, tops.
Never mind twenty.
By twenty the work was rote, old, listless news.
And yet you kept laying bricks for that shining future structure,
Thinking yourself an architect.
But you, my friend, were the miller’s daughter –
Put in ever larger rooms of straw
And told to transmute it or die.
Spinning, spinning, spinning.
There was no imp to spin it for you
You gave your treasures to the shadows
Who swallowed them and shrugged.

Now I see you, head down, rumpled, focused.
You still think there’s a chance.
That the die wasn’t cast ahead of time.
That your failure has been salivated for
By mouths that need spittle to sling in anger
At you – for all the work you’ve done, but inelegantly.
For your failure to bring forth gold.
What can I do but offer a hand?
Wish you well? Hope for better things?
You’re a realist – how are you hoping?
How am I?
I’m watching as you’re led up the stairs
Of what you built, the shining dais that was actually a scaffold.
Beautiful structure, beautiful false floor
So thin the break you don’t even notice it
Until your full weight is on it
And poof! You’re gone.


I didn’t send this to my friend, the Diplomat, in Kabul. I sent a one sentence email because I imagine they’re so overwhelmed with the work that my missive will pass like a pleasant, if furtive, pat on the arm.

I also legitimately didn’t know what to say. When I practiced typing out what I really wanted to say, I got a rough draft of this poem. My first draft was angrier. I have a lot of anger about this subject, but then again the subject of the poem is technically a friend. It doesn’t help to rage at a friend who is working at an impossible possible while everyone is screaming at them. I also didn’t want to linger on my own sense of impotence. So, I sent my friend one heartfelt (if bland) sentence, and then I went and wrote this poem.

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