Wednesday, April 26, 2006

254. Foreign Correspondent

Chinga su madre
you filthy foreign
gringo, step away
from my line of sight!!!!!
He spat this out in Spanish
and this was
my introduction
to foreign correspondence
as the bullets
whacked into the walls
over us and around us
but, thankfully,
not quite into us.
Got him, he grunted,
and so I peeped,
quickly, out the window,
and said, No, you missed.
Bad mistake.
He glared at me
with his red-rimmed eyes
and when he pointed the rifle at my head
I could actually see
the split-second decision
in his eyes, the frown,
the little blink,
when he decided
not to shoot me.
It was then, at that moment, that I understood
the first principle
of eyewitness reporting:
report not what you see,
report what people tell you.

Well, that was Nicaragua
(or was it El Salvador?)
back in the Reagan 1980s.
I moved on to Lebanon
where the civil war was
so confusing, even the locals
couldn’t tell me what was going down.
The US Marines got blasted
and everyone looked so damned pleased,
as if they’d done it themselves,
which everyone hastened to inform me
they hadn’t. Big cheesy grins.
Therefore nobody was responsible,
everyone was totally innocent
and it was a total non-event
as the 280 plus bodies
were dug out of the rubble ….

report not what you see,
report what people tell you.

My newspaper wanted bathetic
details, like which poor kid
came from Oklahoma.
Like who cares!!
Maybe people in Oklahoma.
My three previous stories had been spiked
because I had no solid proof
apart from the fact that everybody
local knew exactly
what had gone down:
It was the Iranians.
It was the Iranians.
It was the Iranians.
Got that? Well, it was never printed.
The Americans, wisely, withdrew
(they could still do that then)
after blasting the unoffending coastline
with volleys of 18 inch shells,
murdering a few hundred women and children,
shit happens, from the USS New Jersey.
Makes sense; it’s kinda hard
to swagger away
unless you leave some death behind you.

Now I was beginning to understand
the things I could write
and the other things I couldn’t.
The only people who shot at me
and quite seriously tried to kill me
were the Israelis: they did that
oh, about 15-20 times, for them
it is always a joke, and when
with distress and piss-streaked trousers
I wrote in a white heat
about the last of my narrow escapes,
the newspaper yanked the story,
told me I was too “emotionally involved”
plus the incident had never happened
according to Israeli Army Radio.
Like, right, sure, get your ass over here,
see what these people do, day in day out,
But nope, sorry pal, “We have growing concerns
with regard to your objectivity, and would
wish to remind you that this corporation
expects the highest level of professional conduct”
These are bullets, man,
They blow holes in you.
The BBC guys lost their driver last week
because some bored little jerks in a tank
decided to blow him up, displaying
the local level of professional conduct.