Todd in Baghdad with the North Dakota National Guard during the Iraq War

Todd served at Camp Slayer in Baghdad with the 164th Engineer Battalion, Headquarters Company, of the North Dakota Army National Guard in 2007 and 2008.
Recorded in 2011 in Todd’s home in North Dakota while looking at Baghdad on Google Maps and at his photos, with the television in the background.
Todd’s recollections are filled with charm and dark humor, wonder and sudden horror.
-The Voice before the Void

Todd in Baghdad with the North Dakota National Guard during the Iraq War

1. Stray Bullet
2. We Didn’t Have a Bunker, We Didn’t Have Shit
3. Victory Over America Palace
4. One Night with the Wrecker
5. Work Area
6. All Demolished
7. Patriot Missile Launcher
8. They Were Trying to Hit That but They Could Never Hit It
9. What Kind of a Damn Tree Is This?
10. Quick Response Force
11. Weird Bunch of Boys
12. Our Flags
13. Blimp
14. Orange Sandstorms
15. Crammed in There
16. Little Fox
17. Towers and a Firefight
18. Destroyed Vehicles
19. Up-armored Humvees
20. Totally Destroyed the Shit but What Are You Going to Do?
21. Civilian Peterbilt
22. Convoys
23. Trouble
24. They’d Get Nailed
25. They Had It Rough but They Had It Made
26. Firing Range in Kuwait
27. Camels
28. Flying in a Tanker
29. Loaded to the Max

2004 January unfinished Victory Over America Palace Camp Slayer Baghdad Iraq War Saddam Hussein Al Radwaniyah Presidential Complex photo by Khartoba

“Fencing” by The Voice before the Void


The Voice before the Void

Brandishing practice swords
And filing little foils for use
In fanaticism
Or farcicals
Practice a pursuit of perfection
And forget failures
For swordpoints sting, waver,
And piles of prison release papers
File into rust cabinets
Bend, lunge,
And parry
Swords are for beheading
Crimes for forgetting
Sport is state-sanctioned
Fun is funded
Sports halls sprout
Players bow, furrow
Games begin
One wrong move
And you blow out your knee
One false foot
And you lose your head

“Paratrooper” by Sean Barnett

U.S. Memorial Day Special:
The best of contemporary war poetry.
⁓The Voice before the Void


Sean Barnett

Deteriorating cartilage,
torn meniscus,
bruising of the femur.

Arthritic diagnosis,
disabling infusion
of shrapnel, peppered
by an explosion.

Then, my parachute’s
canopy partially inverted,
slamming me to
the weakened joint.

Early morning clicks,
occasional popping midday,
and an aching in the evening
only endured by way of
abusive substance.

And that’s the good knee.

“Very Unhealthy” by Sean Barnett

War, still not gone.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Very Unhealthy”

Sean Barnett

I double, then triple
painkiller prescription.
Under my blankets
I float
a foot above my bed
my mind moves
out of the desert
and onto beaches with friends.

The sound of gunfire
The smell of blood
The shrapnel in my knee, Continue reading

“Enlistment” by Sean Barnett

Contemporary war poetry.
⁓The Voice before the Void


Sean Barnett

I did it because I was a horrible student. I—
Did it for the money. I—
or maybe it was so you wouldn’t have to. I—
did it because I lived in an ’89 suburban
Parked in the alley behind a buddy’s house,
Where I bathed in their pool and
drank keystones in the moonlight. I—
did it because I,
didn’t know what else to do.

“War Hero” by Sean Barnett

A perfect war poem.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“War Hero”

Sean Barnett

When we got off the plane–
After a year in Iraq,
There were flags and banners,
They read,
Welcome home troops

An elementary school choir sang,
The local news zoomed in,
Mothers, children, girlfriends and wives,
Clustered to greet us.
Everyone was looking our direction.

There was a frail old man,
Standing in the back, alone, Continue reading