Virginia Lays to Rest a Soldier-Poet Killed in Iraq
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
In addition to being a soldier, Sergeant Scott Kirkpatrick was a poet. He was also known for dressing in all black Goth clothing - not the typical Army man -but 9/11 drew him to the service. The 26-year-old was killed earlier this month by a makeshift bomb in Iraq. He was buried yesterday at Arlington National Cemetery.
NPR's Jack Zahora has this remembrance.
JACK ZAHORA: In 1999, Scott Kirkpatrick took to the stage at a Washington, D.C. cafe. The audience saw a skinny, white teenager from Reston, Virginia. Not someone you'd think performs at the Nuyorican Soul Cafe or the Apollo Theater, but this is what came out of his mouth.
Sergeant SCOTT KIRKPATRICK (U.S. soldier): I declare this lifetime a holiday in honor of truth and life's raw, life's sensuousness. Let Jesus off the cross with night, it's been a long night and a long two millennium. I'm sure he'd like a drink and a smoke. I mean, after all, how can you be the son of God and not know how to party every once and a while?
ZAHORA: Denise Johnson competed against Kirkpatrick at this Washington cafe called Teaism. She remembers, in 2000, when he'd beat her in the D.C. grand slam championship.
Ms. DENISE JOHNSON (Poet): What was so neat is that he was touching on so many of the frustrations that we have with our government, you know, on our political society.
Sgt. KIRKPATRICK: Stand up and salute the red, white and boo hoo hoo is coming by. Yeah. Her lies are marching on. Battle him over a public on fire. Glory, glory, I fooled yah. Long live the queen. The king is dead and jesters are running things now.
ZAHORA: After 9/11, Kirkpatrick decided he wanted to fight. But this time, he traded in the microphone for a machine gun. His family was shocked.
Kirkpatrick's combat buddy, John Wayne Reynolds, could tell Kirkpatrick was different the minute he walked into his barracks.
Mr. JOHN WAYNE REYNOLDS (U.S. soldier): You go in the room and you see things like the biography of Ramu, Hunter S. Thompson, the Federalist Papers.
ZAHORA: Reynolds says Kirkpatrick was as opinionated as he was well-read. One day, while the two pulled guard tower duty, Kirkpatrick got the best of Reynolds, who was reading a Dan Brown book.
Mr. REYNOLDS: And the whole time I was reading it, he was just downing Dan Brown, downing Dan Brown, downing Dan Brown. I just had enough. And when I threw it out the tower, those pages went everywhere. And it just rained down and fluttered down. The look on his face, I mean, he said, I told you he's a bad writer.
ZAHORA: Ed Kirkpatrick says his son's poetry became more contemplative in Iraq, that a certain maturity came to his writing. He reads him a poem about what happens after a soldier dies in combat.
Mr. ED KIRKPATRICK: Nothing is said of politics. Nothing is said about the city. Two million people who don't want us here, hundreds of children throwing bricks, gunshots in the night, martyrs waiting for us to gun them down. Nothing is said about the bullet that tore a soldier's throat out. When roll call is called, there is only the sound of a private first class who does not answer back.
ZAHORA: On August 11th, a bomb exploded and killed Sergeant Scott Kirkpatrick and three other soldiers as they searched a house in Arab Jabour. Kirkpatrick leaves behind a wife, a newly built home in Savannah, Georgia and a world of poetry.
Sgt. KIRKPATRICK: Break all the mirrors tonight, children. Mommy and daddy will love you more for the honesty of your actions. It's time we stare down every day like it was high noon in Tombstone. Hey life, you yellow chicken (bleep). Draw, bang. Got you. Best two out of three? Sorry, I've got to pass. It's last call and I don't want to miss Jesus. We're going out for coffee after the bar is closed. He wants to learn how to pirouette on a razor blade.
(Soundbite of cheering)
ZAHORA: Jack Zahora, NPR News.
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