I Will Follow Tom

On hearing the news of the murder of one of my leaders and mentors, optometrist Tom Little, in Badakhshan Province, Afghanistan, after a medical expedition to Nuristan. Tom had given thirty-seven years of service to the Afghan people, risking his life to provide life when others had evacuated the chaos of war. He and his wife, with their three daughters, served across political, ethnic, and religious boundary lines through a monarchy, a dictatorship, two Communist coups, a Soviet invasion, a mujahedeen civil war, the Taliban, and the current fragile Western-backed government. Tom was killed along with another of my mentors Dan Terry and eight others on 5 August 2010.

The poem is written in an A/A/B/B rhyme scheme at eight syllables per line.


He’ll never know the rocking chair
Or nursing home dementia
With body intravenous fed
While fading mind hangs by a thread

Instead this body pierced with lead
Lived very well, though now slumped dead:
A sacrament in flesh and bone
A testament with human tone

“This is my body; this is my blood”
His hands outstretched in brotherhood
Whose parallel in Galilee
Was crucified, nailed to a tree

Greed-struck the robbers lost all sense
With holier-than-thou pretense
Of hand-wrought righteousness they slay
“The better Muslim,” Afghans say

A man of peace, practical love
Killed by those he chose to serve
Who shattered earthen vessel’s dust
Revealing treasure without rust.

Afghanistan! Afghanistan!
You bite the hand that feeds you!
You blame all others for what’s diseased you!
Scepter, Red Star, Crescent, West –
You’ve squandered every earthly best!

The hands that helped your eyes to see
You pierced in blinded shooting spree!
You hack God’s gifts and man’s inventions!
You’ve despised all good intentions!

What shock awaits on day called Last
When quick and dead from now and past
Are raised to face you, eye-to-eye
That man you killed – he did not die!

And yet, “These are worth dying for”
You’d told your kids on bunker floor
You’d died for decades, ten times ‘round
And that’s how you a rich life found

Now it’s my turn to do the choosing
To save my life (destiny losing)
Or risk the bullet, blade and bomb
I shall follow the steps of Tom

~ km

 

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