The Ghosts of Babylon
The haunting poetry of The Ghosts of Babylon is as near to the crucible of war as you can get without wearing Kevlar and camouflage.
Every war triggers the question—what’s war like? The Ghosts of Babylon offers eyewitness accounts of warriors who lost their innocence dueling in the sands of the Iraqi inferno or fighting in the chilling Afghan mountains or on the khaki-colored plains. Wounds enshrouded under the bandages of headlines and sound bites will never bridge the gap between soldier and civilian.
Only a soldier poet lays bare the honor and horror. Only a veteran reveals the physical and mental battles waged by the warrior caste. Only the war poet distills the emotions of those who tasted bravery and terror, love and vengeance, life and death. Based on the experiences of a U.S. Army Ranger turned private security contractor, these powerful poems capture the essence of Jonathan Baxter’s twelve military and civilian deployments.
Jonathan reveals the contradictory nature of deployment in a war zone—exhilaration, monotony, ugliness, and occasional beauty. From ancient times to present day, war poetry telegraphs a dispatch across the ages about the universal experiences of war—brotherhood and bereavement, duty and disillusionment, and heroism and horror. No history mirrors the brutal realities and emotions of armed conflict than the shock of war erupting from the warrior poet’s pen.
Jonathan resurrects the ghosts and gods of soldiers past. His poignant memorial to fallen brothers transmits the shadowy presence and ultimate sacrifices of the coffined to the fortunate un-coffined. The Ghosts of Babylon strips away the cultural varnish of the ‘enemy,’ painting the bitter irony of every day lives caught in the crosshairs of terror, chaos, and death. From moving to startling to soulful, these masterpieces provoke you to think about the truths and consequences of those who risk their lives on the frontline of freedom—for you, their friends, and our country.
Author: Jonathan Baxter
Foreword: Leo Jenkins
Published: August, 2016
POE023040 POETRY / Subjects & Themes / Places
BIO008000 BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Military
HIS027180 HISTORY / Military / Special Forces
The DD-214: The “Holy Grail” of the out-processing quest, received upon separation. The discharge document that chronicles one’s military career, schools, awards, deployments, and time in service.
I receive my DD-214 as a reprieve
from the fat black woman behind the desk
and place it with the rest of my papers I have gathered
that were scattered like Easter Eggs
hidden around Soldier’s Plaza
in one blow-out extravaganza
The thick folder I hold here is my monument
to the acquisition of all my separation documents
Running in the rain through the street
hunting signatures like I once hunted HVTs
kicking down doors
blowing past bored civilian employees
chasing down that DD-214
And I got it. I’m done. Nothing Follows.
My DD-214 is pretty modest indeed
My six year career fits almost completely on one sheet
A few sentences spill over onto the second
bookended by: //NOTHING FOLLOWS
The six deployments fit into one box
a jumble of numbers, lines and dots
I sift through the dates
each recounting a different place in my life
That one was my first
That one there was the worst
We lost Ricky there
That one was my first to Afghanistan
the land where time began
That one was my favorite and
I hoist my giant folder
and make my way to the door and homeward
Clutching my beret, I head into the rain
trying to keep the papers dry inside my jacket
protecting the one and a quarter page testament
to whatever the past six years meant:
boredom, tedium, fear
anxiety, imposed celibacy
separation, sexual frustration
physical exhaustion, a few brief moments of fulfillment
those times you were God for a minute
Tonight I’ll get drunk and moody with some of my buddies
Pitch myself a little pity party
For now I get in my car and start driving to a new horizon
Here’s the freedom that you dreamed of for the past few years
but why does the sky appear so empty now?
Empty like the second page of my discharge document
ending in that final and hollow statement: