A recent treaty by the United States and Taliban in Afghanistan signals the end our nation’s longest war and the hopeful return of all American forces in 2021.
Coincidentally, just as that news was announced, the Princeton-based Ragged Sky Press had already announced the publication of “Base Camp,” a new book of poetry by a regional writer who served in that war.
Steve Nolan, of Newtown, Pennsylvania, is a licensed clinical social worker who spent 25 years as a therapist and 30 years in the military. In addition to serving as the chief of combat stress for Paktika Province in Afghanistan, he also oversaw a PTSD clinic for the Veterans Administration.
Nolan also has a degree in English and psychology and has had his poems appear in various regional and national small press publications and on National Public Radio. He is also the author of the Ragged Sky Press publication “Go Deep; Poetry,” created in partnership with the late area artist NJ DeVico.
Noted Bucks County-based poet, critic, and activist Christopher Bursk writes that Nolan’s new book “explores the violence not just of armed aggression, but of crippling illness, his is not a book of rage, but of attention and love and persistence; that is to say, it is profoundly spiritual.”
In the following selection Nolan reflects on the event that caused the war, the attack on the World Trade Centers on September 11, 2001.
Dreaming About a 911
Through my binoculars
I study the village of Orgune.
One can’t help making comparisons
to the adobe dwellings
of our own Southwest.
All the structures
follow a fort-like pattern
with a central courtyard,
some with silo-like towers,
up to a hundred feet in height,
presumably for self-defense.
They have a somewhat medieval quality,
like little castle turrets,
and seem so out of place
in this barren, hilly landscape
but must surely bring great pride
to those who built them.
Last night a strange dream—
a Christian fundamentalist
in a stolen Piper Cub,
comes over the hilltops
and crashes deliberately
into two of the “silos”
where a group of Afghans
hold an open-air bazaar.
The locals scatter in horror
as the plane disintegrates itself
and the silos in a mini fireball.
The Afghan people stare in disbelief
as I try desperately
to explain that none of this
has anything to do
with Jesus Christ.
Steve Nolan’s “Base Camp,” $15, is available through Ragged Sky Press at raggedsky.com.