If Memory Dances Like the Wind

after Susan Musgrave

at night in a tent with forty-five other guys
you switch on your headlamp and pull the soul
out of your boot, the footbed –
everything you’ve had for all the months you’ve been
gone with your hand searching, fingernails picking at the corner
of the photo
until you’re able to look at it.

until you’re able to look at it
you build it up in your mind
every mission that your run
with your muzzle pressed the the small of a woman’s
back at the mess tent with the juices of a pseudo-American
burger running down your chin,
when the stones crunch under the tires
and Paint It Black sings you to sleep in the desert.

and Paint it Black sings you to sleep in the desert
after you’ve switched on your headlamp and pulled the soul
out of the small of a woman’s back,
everything you’ve had for all the months you’ve been
gone with your hand searching, fingernails picking at the corner
of your boot, the footbed –
until you’re able to look at it
at night in a tent with forty-five other guys.

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How It Works

If I could grant the world a miracle,
I wouldn’t know where to start.

I have no idea what it’s like to be so hungry that machine grease is a delicacy called ‘butter’,
No idea how many weeks of starvation it takes for a grandfather to call glycerin ‘honey’,
But I know what it’s like to yearn for something more than I have, for every cell in my body to stutter and pray for survival, for every fibre to bend towards the resurrection of Forgiveness.

I have seen bodies laying in the streets,
Surrounded by casings and all the ones that got away –

If I could close the open legs of Baghdad
I’m not sure that I would put another white face in their history books because I know what it’s like to be violently explored by foreigners I didn’t invite,
The impressions of boots take millennia to be blown out of dunes and valleys no matter how gentle or forceful be the wind that blows the sand.
Would I be wasting a miracle to paint over the cracks we have made?

If I sat on the edge of the world,
Would I overlook Jerusalem or Washington?
Two cities sharing a hill, both built on the backs of slaves, both strangers in a strange land,
Both fighting to keep the infidels out of a land they now call their own.
Would giving them eyes to see through their enemies’ be a waste of a miracle?

I have never lived through a tsunami,
Never had the earth lift up beneath me and come back down as water,
But I have felt the world shift beneath my feet.
I have run across fault lines and survived with only fragments left.
If I found myself in a tsunami, my  brain tied up in knots, my legs unable to carry me far enough fast enough,
Would my fear of losing everything teach me how to swim through an ocean turned muddy with our fracking and drilling and drilling and drilling into the veins of the earth, our machines sucking out the blood like vampires?
Would I be a Democrat or Republican if I was swimming through this ocean of blood turned black with our hatred of the body it came from?
Would one miracle really be enough to redeem ourselves?

I have never been hungry enough to call machine grease ‘butter’,
If I could close the open legs of Baghdad, I’m not sure that I would put another white face in their history books,
If I sat on the edge of the world, I don’t know if I’d see Jerusalem or Washington,
And I have never lived through a tsunami,
But if I could grant the world one miracle, I wouldn’t know where to start.
Would one miracle really be enough to redeem ourselves?

America

for Allen Ginsberg

America
When did the life seep out of your bones?
Can you hold you head up high or is it too heavy to pick back up?
Is it too full of worries about the future, we all worry about a future that will not be ours.
There will never be somebody whose love is perfect enough for you –
I tried to kiss you but you pulled away, you are just learning how to feel
but it is too late for all the countries who have felt you laying on top of them for years –

I told you not to kick at the hive but you couldn’t hear me over your drilling and your bombs,
That’s not what your ears are for.
The almighty god you are so in love with gave you those ears so you could
Hear the screams of a nation before it died,
Kicked by a boot you manufactured in China,
And aren’t you glad that you did?
This boot has walked all these miles to find its creator,
It has had too long to think –
How come you never write?

America
Your foster children around the world are getting restless,
They are stretching their legs and claiming their territory,
They are setting up boundaries, they are setting up borders.
What will you do when they have grown up?
Where will you go now that you’ve spent your retirement fund
On the hedge funds of your youth?
Sometime this world is not our home.

America
What will you do when this world is no longer a home for you?

Catch-22

A kid with his hand in the cookie jar
Hears footsteps on the stairs and knows
He can’t put the lid on without making the noise that will give him away.

Kirkuk

after Ilya Kaminsky

Let us wash our faces of this dust and forget how the dirt collects in our wounds.
Let the women mourn the way they have never had the time to mourn their men.
Let their men kneel on the roof, clearing their throats, and know those are not guns in their hands
but telescopes, they want to see the universe unfold without a bang.
Let our hearts beat fast without pulling our triggers.
Let there be room for doubt.

What is silence? Something of the sky in us.

We are on our bellies in this silence, Lord.

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Bloodletting

after Nate Klug

To stand for the first time
Outside myself

To look in,
A hangman’s noose around my neck
And feel no remorse
And yet regret

There is no name
For this lawless labyrinth

We have claimed it
For it to claim us.

The 101st

After the soldiers leave, Farha
And her three daughters and her two nieces and her mother
Spend a week cleaning the house
That has a hole where the door used to be.
They take all the china from the cupboards,
Pile it on the floor, on the table, on the counter;
It takes them two days to wash them.
Then, they put the vases to bed on the sofa
And, sitting in a circle on the floor, they all find a job
And soon the vases are clean.
They spend two days washing every piece of fabric
From every cupboard, every drawer.
They spend a night wiping all the walls,
Hours sweeping the floors.
But when Farha can’t find her burkas she realizes
This house will never again be her home.

(And in twenty minutes, the Airborne’s
Undone it all again.)

How many wrongs can I write?

The Return

inspired by Clinton’s post earlier this morning.
after Andrei Platonov.

On the morning he comes home
Regret folds through her body like hips
Undulating under a slave driver’s whip
And there is nothing for her to say except

I’m sorry

and nothing for her to do but to hope
it is enough
like the clouds hope the wind
is enough
like the dust hopes the sun
is enough
to pull from the soil what water
there once was hope
in the water they drank
but now there’s only the sting
of salt that they imagine
between sips of conversation
stinging in the wounds he wishes
he’d received because it would
give her a reason to care for him
like God used to care for His children.

Regrets

“my only regret
is not having the courage
to have any.”

– an email from a friend of mine when he got back stateside.

Oedipus Wrecks

Before you get deployed
Cut out your own eyes.
They’ll still send you
But you won’t have to see what you’ve done.

Heel

F: tell me how you heal.
T: i don’t.

July 3, 2007. Fallujah

I don’t give a fuck about America.
America don’t give a fuck about me.

In Iraq in Kuwait in Germany in Texas

their cologne smells like
every Asian guy in my company.
it’s not an unpleasant smell -not sickly sweet, not girly.
fuck it’s not even heady.

their cologne smells like the train to Washington
when the train to Washington smells like Iraq
in Kuwait, in Germany, in Texas.
it’s an attractive smell -not sickly sweet, not girly.
it just smells like the home I keep trying to find.

Salvation

for Heidi Kraft

in the second before the bomb
fell from God,
he felt himself slip from
the Lord’s embrace
as only a favourite son can
slip from his father’s arms.

it happened in slow motion.
he could see only the child
and hear only the sound of his rifle
giggling.

he waited a long time to die,
but death was something
he could only look at,
his Sergeant stopping him from
getting too close,
a mother tugging at her son’s bloodied shirt.

If There Is Something A Bit Startling

for Martin Peretz
after Edward Said

a crazed Arab, to be sure,
but crazed in the distinctive ways
of his culture he is intoxicated
by language, fantasy and
Reality abhors compromise –
always blames others for his predicament.

Feb. 4, 2002

The strike was in Paktia province.
“A decision was made to fire
The Hellfire missile.
It was fired” at the tall man in long robes.

How many times do you have to clear your throat
To lie like you do?

“We’re convinced that it was an appropriate target.
We do not know yet exactly who it was.”

We do not know yet who it was,
We are convinced it was an appropriate target.

An appropriate target for our unmanned drone,
With enough explosives to penetrate a village and never pull out.

He expected the identities of the three people to prove “interesting”
To prove a war was required to stop grown men from collecting
Scrap metal in broad daylight
In the country to which they belonged.

sweat-soaked bed,
burdened by my weight which grows heavier
with every moment I spend straddling the line dividing the light
and the dark which tears through the souls of people
who have known both.

the last time this window was open my brother fell out
and now he spends his days drawing with a package of
crayons which melt when faced with the son of reality,
a classical painting in a museum of modern art.

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