Original Obligation

In 2006, I was in Iraq. Spike and I were on deployment and then one night, Spike died. I sent him to stop a human and the human started fighting him and was on top of him. I shot the human and the bullets went through the human and killed Spike.

After the ride home in the helicopter, with Spike’s body cold in my lap, and the mission debrief, and then taking his body to the Vet to get an autopsy; one in which I saw the entry and exit wound from my bullet, and then watching him be respectfully cremated, I went back to his kennel and wrote this poem by the great Pablo Neruda, on his kennel door.

“What hope to consider, what pure foreboding,
what definitive kiss to bury the heart,
to submit to the origins of homelessness and intelligence,
smooth and sure over the eternally troubled waters?

What vital, speedy wings of a new dream angel
to install on my sleeping shoulders for perpetual security,
in such a way that the path through the stars of death
be a violent flight begun many days and months and centuries ago?

Suppose the natural weakness of suspicious, anxious creatures
all of a sudden seeks permanence in time and limits on earth,
suppose the accumulated age and fatigues implacably
spread like the lunar wave of a just-created ocean
over lands and shorelines tormentedly deserted.

Oh, let what I am keep on existing and ceasing to exist,
and let my obedience align itself with such iron conditions
that the quaking of deaths and of births doesn’t shake
the deep place I want to reserve for myself eternally.

Let me, then, be what I am, wherever and in whatever weather,
rooted and certain and ardent witness,
carefully, unstoppably, destroying and saving himself
openly engaged in his original obligation.”

What is your “Original Obligation?”