Thursday, March 20, 2014

Soldier

I haven't written any poetry in a very long time. So here's a memory of a time when I was still feeling inspired. 'Soldier', nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2010.


Soldier
    
Staring at the darkened sky
I can almost keep up the pretense
of being home, but the stray dogs
and the men’s snores keep me awake
in my rocky grave, thinking
of the many times I kissed women
I shouldn’t have but never feeling
as unfaithful to you as when I hug
my heavy gun close to my chest.

The shadow of death trails behind us
even on overcast days, it dims
the image of home until I can barely
recall the memory of you. I’m not alone,
just lonely as a sky without birds.

Explosions outshine the stars
night after night, the thunder
brings bloody rain. Amid the hot fumes
of oil and tire I dream — sometimes awake —
of new-mown grass, cicadas and homemade cakes.
Is it springtime back home? I forget.

Staring at the clouds, I begin to see
camels and minarets, rarely any
familiar shapes. There may be something
to Rorschach, after all. It feels like I inhabit
the life of a stranger, like my breath
powers a force that isn’t entirely me.

Days old, sun-dried sweat begins
to sting on the parched skin,
the shamal whips up the sand
lashing us with vicious shower until
my mouth becomes a desert too.

I’m not afraid, just doubtful sometimes.
They say this is for real, the generals,
and that we are going to win,
but when I feel that rush I never
expected to feel, it’s all less real,
like a game on my home console
where the enemy is just a machine,
a faceless algorithm that can only
lose or win. Out here, it feels
like there’s so much more in between.

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